Lesson 6: Evidence-Based Practice in the Substance Use Workforce—Developing Skills for Critically Appraising and Applying the Best Evidence

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Evidence-based practice (EBP) is a set of principles. Evidence-based decision making (EBDM) represents the set of skills (processes) used to apply these principles. Understanding the principles and possessing the skill to implement each step of the evidence-based decision making process are the most valuable attributes that a member of Canada’s substance abuse workforce can have. With these skills you can easily, quickly, and confidently be at the top of your game. Without them, you will be dependent on others to tell you how to practice, and if you are working in isolation, you will quickly become out of date and risk providing sub-standard care.

Although few people are really good at EBDM, developing this skill is extremely worthwhile, since it empowers people to do great things for their clients. It is not difficult work, but it requires practice.

In lesson 5, we examined the core skills associated with evidence-based practice, and you had an opportunity to practice the skills for framing a question and systematic searching for “evidence.” Lesson 6 starts with appraising the evidence you found in the previous lesson, which is followed by an activity associated with implementation. Activity 3 in this lesson puts all the steps together in one case example.

At the end of this lesson, you should feel much more confident about your ability to use an evidence-based decision making framework for your practice. Furthermore, you should be ready to complete Assignment 4.


Lesson 6 addresses the following topics:

  • Appraising the evidence
  • Making a recommendation (Implementation)
  • Putting it all together: A case study

Learning Outcomes

After you complete this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Critically appraise evidence in the literature.
  • Design a recommended plan to apply the best evidence in practice.
  • Apply the skills of the EBDM process to a case study situation.


Following are the resources you will use in this lesson, in addition to the resources identified in Lesson 5:

Humphreys, K., Gifford, E. (2006). Religion, Spirituality, and the Troublesome Use of Substances. In W. Miller & K. Carroll (Eds.), Rethinking substance abuse: What the science shows, and what we should do about it (pp. 257–274). New York, NY: Guildford Press.

Available Through TRU Library

Fineout-Overholt, E., & Johnston, L. (2006). Teaching EBP: Implementation of evidence—Moving from evidence to action. Worldviews on Evidence-Based Nursing, 3(4), 194–200.

Johnston, L., & Fineout-Overholt, E. (2006). Teaching EBP: The critical step of critically appraising the literature… Evidence-based practice. Worldviews on Evidence-Based Nursing, 3(1), 44–46.

Activity Checklist

Following is a checklist of the learning activities you will be completing in Lesson 6. You may find it useful for planning your work.

✔ Activity

☐ Activity 1: Appraising the evidence

☐ Activity 2: Designing and implementing a plan

☐ Activity 3: Putting it all together—Kimberly Fadar