How does the busy clinician keep abreast of the ever increasing volume of published research and guidance?


The Findings project came together to tackle this issue by initially creating the Drug and Alcohol Findings magazine, and later replacing it with a free web-based service called the Effectiveness Bank. The Effectiveness Bank is continually updated as new research is selected for inclusion from the world literature on ‘what works’ in responding to substance use disorders. In 2013-14, in partnership with and funded by the Substance Misuse Skills Consortium and the SSA, Findings launched the alcohol and drug treatment matrices. These distil learning since the project started into two 5x5 grids segmented into the major practical divisions relevant to treatment effectiveness and delivery. Within each cell are the main historical and contemporary research landmarks, reviews offering a panoramic view, expert guidance based on this research, and an option to explore beyond these dozen or so selected documents.

As a clinician, researcher and teacher, I found the Drug and Alcohol Findings magazine extremely useful. In particular I loved the way that it pulled together and commented on a range of studies with important or thought-provoking results in a way that was relevant to the clinician. Themed reviews such as the ‘Manners Matter’ series covered the topics that mattered to my clinical team, and the issues often raised by my clients. The Matrices are a new and exciting way of accessing this material.

Imagine I am a senior clinician in a drug treatment service. I want to deliver the best and most effective care to my client group, but time is limited and caseloads are increasing, and I need to ensure that I make every second count. Which psychological interventions are the most effective? I know that NICE produced clinical guidelines on Psychosocial Interventions (CG51), but that relatively few interventions for opiate users were supported by the evidence base. Cell A4 of the Drugs Matrix takes me straight to NICE CG51, and reminds me that a range of resources were produced by the British Psychological Society and the National Treatment Agency to support me in implementing the findings in practice. It also provides me with new evidence on Node-Link mapping, Mindfulness, and Peer-Based Addiction Recovery, and prompts me to think about the common relationship factors important in all psychological therapies.

The latter also leads me to ponder what makes a good therapist, and which qualities I might look for when selecting a new member of staff. Answers to these questions can be found in Cell B4, including links to a range of guidelines on ‘Addiction Counselling Competencies’ from the USA. Having used this information to select an effective treatment strategy to try, how should I implement it in practice?  How much training is enough, and what form should supervision take in the long-term? Should I set my therapists targets, or provide them with feedback on their performance. Some answers to these questions are provided in Cell C4.

The Findings Matrices are a fabulous resource for the busy clinician, providing information, guidance, and inspiration in equal measure. Have a look, read the commentaries, and send in your own views for further debate. Both the SSA and Findings welcome on-going debate and discussion about these key issues, and hope that you will interact with both sites to help us tailor our materials to your needs in the future.

The opinions expressed in this commentary reflect the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the opinions or official positions of the Society for the Study of Addiction.