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Evidence-Based Practice: Are You Really Ahead of the Curve?

Let me first start this article with the disclaimer that I acknowledge and completely agree that academia plays a significant role in the decisions that any professional who works with the human body makes when providing services for a client or patient. Understanding the body and how it works is the basis of everything we do. Do not make the mistake of misinterpreting this article as anti-scientific. This article is meant to be a call to each of us to better understand the process of scientific progress as well as each and every one of our roles in this process.

“Evidence-based practice” is the most commonly accepted method guiding professional practice and decision-making. It is utilized across multiple disciplines but most specifically in human sciences. These include medicine, psychology, strength, conditioning, etc.

In theory, evidence-based practice provides a large set of guidelines from which to direct your service, product, or care. It is meant to highlight the art of informed decision-making based upon multiple factors in a given situation. Rather than trying to find right versus wrong, it is meant to remind us that it is not enough to simply have knowledge: you must develop the skillset of applying it as well.

But over the past 10-20 years, professionals have traded the depth and complexity of the “evidence-based” approach for a more attractive and superficial take. With the same irony that Botox and liposuction clinics have absorbed the words “health” and “wellness,” the evidence-based approach has become a marketing buzzword to try to signal to the public that you are “cutting edge” and “ahead of the curve,” rather than describing an internal ethos for how you carry yourself as a professional.

It’s kind of like when you go on a first date and the girl tells you that she “hates drama.” Dollars to donuts, the exact opposite is true. And just like the bullet that you (hopefully) dodged from that first date, those who promote themselves as evidenced-based often display a lack of understanding of how the evidence-based method works. This can become very apparent when these individuals are faced with a technique, piece of information, or system that they are unfamiliar with.

Rather than remaining objective, observant, and open to learning, they instead view the unknown as threatening and thus become defensive: “Where’s the evidence?” they ask. Short of producing a double-blind randomized control trial, there is no convincing these evidence-based professionals. Why? Because with the superficial application of evidence-based practice, the unknown is scary to them. Rather, the unknown should entice curiosity and pique interest. Being wrong is just part of the process required to get to being right. If you wait for someone else to tell you all of the right answers, you are, by definition, not ahead of the curve.

To be an innovator, and not just a follower of an industry, requires three components:

1. Client perspectives and experiences

2. Clinical/professional expertise

3. External scientific evidence

The evidence-based model has never been about relying on others to do the work so that you can simply read about it in a book (although it is an incredibly valuable tool). It is about being deeply involved in your own journey and in your own experiences, as well as being dedicated to the constantly surging struggle of learning from the lessons of your experiences and those around you to make the world a better place.

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