Academic journal article Journal of Social Work Education

Revalidation of an Evidence-Based Practice Scale for Social Work

Academic journal article Journal of Social Work Education

Revalidation of an Evidence-Based Practice Scale for Social Work

Article excerpt

The use of research to inform social work practice and policy--and to involve clients in this process--has been described as a paradigm shift away from the authority-based practice that has traditionally guided the field (Howard, McMillen, & Pollio, 2003). Despite the rise in interest in evidence-based practice (EBP), most schools of social work are only beginning to require students in class or in the field to learn evidence-based interventions. Social work practitioners tend not to use therapies based on EBP, instead preferring experience, intuition, or advice from colleagues or supervisors (Edmond, McGovern, Williams, Rochman, & Howard, 2006; Mullen & Bacon, 2006; Proctor, 2006; Weissman et al., 2006). As the teaching of EBP in medicine, nursing, psychology, education, and other fields is growing, social work education needs to respond to this paradigm shift, so much so that Soydan (2006) states, "It needs to become a mainstream concern for schools of social work" (p. 4).

Schools of social work are being influenced to integrate content on EBP into their curricula by a variety of stakeholders, including professional organizations, government funders, client groups, lawmakers, and providers (Edmond et al., 2006). Key professional organizations in this endeavor include the National Association of Social Workers, who wrote in the Code of Ethics, "4.01c. Social workers should base practice on recognized knowledge, including empirically based knowledge, relevant to social work and social work ethics" (NASW, 2008). According to the standards of the Council on Social Work Education, practice content at the graduate foundation level must include "identifying, analyzing, and implementing empirically based interventions to achieve client goals; applying empirical knowledge and technological advances; [and] evaluating program outcomes and practice effectiveness," and fieldwork must "foster the integration of empirical and practice-based knowledge" (CSWE, 2001, pp. 10, 11).

Funders have increasingly demanded that EBP be used in service provision. For instance, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has long encouraged the bridge between research and practice (NIAAA, 2007). The National Institute of Mental Health has implemented evidence-based practices as part of public policy, with some raising the familiar issues of definitions of evidence and effectiveness (Tanenbaum, 2005). The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration now wants all funded programs to include EBP (see SAMHSA, 2007). This has caused agency social workers to approach schools of social work for help (Proctor, 2006).

Rubin and Parrish (2007) reviewed a variety of definitions appearing in the literature, citing some views of EBP as a process for finding the best evidence available (Rosenthal, 2004; Thyer, 2004) and noting that those authors did not provide a specific list of EBP interventions (Rubin & Parrish, 2007, p. 112). Others see EBP as the use of interventions that are supported by empirical evidence (Drake et al., 2001; Rosen & Proctor, 2004). Mullen and Streiner (2004) suggest that EBP refers to both a process and the interventions themselves, or, as Proctor (2006) notes, it is "both a noun and a verb" (p. 4).

Gambrill (2006) states that "practice guidelines are but one component of EBP" (p. 341). She calls for a broad definition of EBR as the originators intended, that not only is focused on practice guidelines but also includes attention to modifications of interventions that are based on client characteristics and availability of resources. Gibbs and Gambrill (2002) point to the use of the term evidence-based in book or article titles that may reflect research reviews that do not include the critical appraisal called for in key EBP sources. Because it is an alternative to authority-based practice, databases and information retrieval tools are "necessary but insufficient components of EBP" (Shlonsky & Stern, 2006, p. …

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