Exploring evidence-based mental health care and how healthcare professionals can stay updated

Mental health care treatments need to be based on facts and research from real-life studies and examples. Ensuring that patients receive a high level of care promptly means using proven theories and methods and applying them to each case.

A complex diagnosis can often mean a complex treatment plan. Such a plan may include combining different methodologies, medications, or styles of care. Evidence-based care is a method that helps to ensure that treatments consider both the clinical benefits and patients’ values.

In this article, we explore the key benefits of evidence-based care and neurocognitive theory. We also discuss how healthcare professionals can stay updated on the latest treatments. Finally, we look at the growing demand for mental health care nurses, and how you can study and gain the qualifications to work in this area.

What are the key benefits of evidence-based care?

Evidence-based care is not only effective, but also encourages others to prove their theories before widely using them. It is ethical to test treatments of any form of medicine. In the field of mental health, research studies are conducted on participants who are aware that their cases and information are being used. Clinical trials can make a huge difference in the lives of those suffering from mental illness.

Evidence-based care involves treating the whole person

It is important to consider all aspects of a person’s health and wellbeing. Mental and physical health are linked together – without good mental health, physical health can decline, and poor physical health can lead to mental health problems. Therefore, mental health nurses must ask questions that allow them to gain an insight into a person’s unique challenges. Approaching this with questions based on the person’s age and abilities is one of the best practices.

Evidence-based care promotes positive life-affirming goals

In the past, the goals of mental health professionals may have been as simple as preventing relapses and hospitalizations. With evidence-based care, the goals are more life-changing and based on helping patients to have as normal a life as possible. Rather than just being satisfied with preventing episodes, the goal is to enable patients to establish healthy relationships, find and maintain a career, enjoy hobbies and more.

However, there must be some acknowledgement of the personal limits that someone may have because of mental and physical health. These limits may change over time. Small steps in the right direction can lead to major changes and long-term improvements.

Neurocognitive theory

The brain thinks and performs differently as it ages. The age and development level of a patient must be considered at every point of treatment, from initial intake to diagnosis and ongoing treatments and therapy for trauma and chronic mental illness.

Challenges that people face at different ages

Adolescents are facing different challenges from adults or seniors. These differences must be considered when providing mental health care. Adolescents may be experiencing peer pressure, self-esteem issues and problems related to forming relationships. Deciding what career path to study is another challenge.

Fast forward to adults in their 20s and 30s and you may start to see more financial, career, relationship and family challenges. Older adults may experience more feelings of loneliness or depression related to aging and more challenging physical health issues.

Neurocognitive deficits

A neurocognitive deficit is when something causes a particular area of the brain to not respond or function normally. There can be many reasons for this, such as substance abuse or prescription medications, genetics, and age.

Substance abuse or prescription medications

Substance abuse can alter the way that the brain develops or performs. Prescription medications can also have a noticeable effect. This must be considered when establishing treatment plans and protocols, or prescribing medications to correct chemical imbalances that can contribute to or even be the main factor in a mental illness. Treating substance abuse is one of the first steps to getting someone on a healthier path regardless of their age.

Over the years, chronic substance abuse, including drugs or alcohol, can permanently affect brain function. In younger people who are still developing, the results can alter their cognitive ability for the rest of their life.


Some mental health disorders are genetic and considered chronic issues that cannot be completely cured. Schizophrenia is one example. This is caused by a neurocognitive deficit that is physical in nature. Medications can help correct and treat the problem so that schizophrenics can lead more normal lives. Without medication and, in many cases, counseling, schizophrenics cannot function in regular society. The disorder runs in families, meaning that if you have a close relative, especially a parent or biological aunt or uncle who has the disorder, then you have a higher chance of being diagnosed. Prompt treatment when symptoms manifest often yields effective results thanks to modern advancements in mental health care.


As we age, changes occur in the brain. In some cases, these changes can be more extreme than others. Alzheimer’s disease is one neurocognitive problem that seems to be more likely with advanced age but can occur early in rarer cases. It is important to be aware that Alzheimer’s disease can mimic the symptoms of some mental health disorders, especially if it has not been diagnosed yet.

How can mental health care professionals stay updated on the latest treatments?

There is always great research happening in the field of mental health care. Different cases and scenarios are studied, and this information can help all mental health care professionals offer a high level of care to their patients.

Here are some of the ways that these professionals can stay up to date on the latest neurocognitive theories and apply them in their daily patient treatment plans.

Journals and magazines

Research is regularly published in journals, magazines, and professional paper repositories. To stay updated, healthcare professionals should regularly read papers and take notes on important aspects. Good abstracts can alert psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) if the paper is something that’s relevant to their practice, and they can then study the ones that are best suited for their area of expertise.

Networking and conferences

While patient confidentiality must be maintained, there is still plenty of knowledge that can be acquired by speaking to people and attending lectures in the mental health industry. There are many ways to network and find conferences and other professional events that can help you stay as informed as possible.

LinkedIn is one of the more common ways to put yourself out there and network, but it would be wise to branch out and investigate professional organizations dedicated to nursing, mental health, psychiatry, and even pharmaceutical research.

Conferences take up time, but there is nothing like going and meeting other people in person. Of course, there are also virtual options at times. Nurse practitioners should take the time to attend both types of conferences.

Sometimes there are also opportunities to represent your medical facility at a conference. This can make it easier to fit into your schedule. Sharing your own experience and research is a great way to meet others and contribute to the advancement of mental health care.


Working with other professionals on treatment plans and discussing the latest evidence-based care is very helpful. Trusted colleagues are always a great source to talk to in order to get advice about complex situations and cases.

Having a mentor who has been a mental health professional for a longer time than you have is also very beneficial if you have the option. This is because you can learn from their knowledge and offer your patients a higher level of care than you can with just your own education and experience. This is a great way to continue learning regardless of where you are in your career. Although some practices may be a bit outdated and not used so often now, there is still a lot that can be learned from them.

Mental health nurses are in demand

The demand for mental health nurses is growing as the world becomes more aware of how our brains work, and what we need to ensure that we have happy, balanced lives. There is also a demand for nurses due to the growth of telehealth and increased access via the internet and smart devices. Telehealth can help nurses reach out to their patients, regardless of their location and age.

The use of telehealth encourages those who have anxiety issues to address their mental health care needs because their appointment can take place in the comfort of their own home. Of course, there are times when telehealth is not appropriate, but it does help encourage patients to check in regularly and attend counseling sessions that may otherwise go ignored.

This demand for mental health nurses requires more people to study and gain the necessary qualifications. Below, we look at how you can study to become a mental health nurse.

Studying to become a mental health nurse

If you are a registered nurse (RN) who is considering the next step in their career, then you should consider the benefits of studying to become a mental health nurse. Studying for an additional certification provides you with more training and knowledge and will ensure that you are up to date with the latest technological innovations, such as telehealth. Gaining this kind of qualification can therefore open doors to new employment opportunities.

PMHNP certificate programs allow RNs to earn an advanced degree while maintaining their current job. Wilkes University offers a degree program that allows you to earn your Mental Health Nurse Practitioner certification in just over six semesters, or under two years. Wilkes University’s program will teach you advanced techniques in crisis management, intervention, diagnosis and more. Clinical placement services are included with your tuition, meaning that you can get your license to practice as quickly as possible. The training provided by further education can enable you to advance in your career, and places you at the forefront of mental health.

Where do mental health nurses work?

Mental health nurses are employed at hospitals, community health centers, substance abuse treatment centers, mental health hospitals with in-patient care, correctional facilities, schools, and universities, and more. Psychiatrist offices and mental health centers often employ mental health nurses. Another employment option for mental health nurses are nonprofit agencies reaching out to those suffering from substance abuse and homelessness.

If you feel drawn to helping those in a specific group, mental health nursing is an excellent way to pursue this. Your skills give you ultimate flexibility in where you work and who you work with.

Access to mental health care is vital

With more people having access to healthcare and the insurance coverage they need to get care, there is even more demand for mental health nurses than in the past. Everyone must have access to good mental health care when they need it. A society that takes care of each other is healthier and more productive than one that allows some people to go without the mental health care they need.

PMHNPs can help to fill in gaps in mental health care and ensure that more people are treated regardless of their background or socio-economic status. With a shortage of healthcare workers in all specialties, it is increasingly important that nurses step up and gain advanced degrees to help alleviate the lack of primary care providers.