Evidence-Based Practice in Social Work

For USC School of Social Work


Evidence-Based Practice:

  • Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) in social work context means “conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions” regarding the welfare of individuals (Sacette, 1996).

    __knowing what the current best evidence is
    __using the current best evidence in conjunction with individual expertise and client values and expectation
    __A professional state of mind
    __A professional culture

  • Evidence-based practice can be defined as the integration of the best research evidence with clinical expertise and client values in making practice decisions.
  • “Best research evidence” means clinically relevant research from basic and applied scientific investigations, especially drawing from intervention research evaluating the outcomes of social work services, and from studies on the reliability and validity of assessment measures…(McNeece & Thyer, 2004, p.9)

Evidence-based social work

  • Evidence-based social work is the mindful and systematic identification, analysis, evaluation, and synthesis of evidence of practice effectiveness as a primary part of an integrative and collaborative process concerning the selection and application of service to members of target client groups. The evidence-based decision-making process includes consideration of professional ethics and experience, as well as the personal and cultural values and judgments of consumers. (Cournoyer, 2004, p.4, and Sheldon & Geraldine, 1999).

Evidence-based Medicine (EBM)

  • Evidence-based Medicine (EBM) is the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current best evidence (based on systematic reviews, etc.) in making decisions about the care of individual patients.” By evidence “we mean clinically relevant research, often from the basic sciences of medicine, but especially from patient-centered clinical research into the accuracy and precision of diagnostic tests (including the clinical examination), the power of prognostic markers and the efficacy and safety of therapeutic rehabilitative and preventive regimens.” (Sackett, et al. 1996).

Evidence-Based Health Care (EBHS)

  • The social work EBP has its root in Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM), which started in the medical field around mid-1990s, and has since conceptually evolved into Evidence-Based Health Care (EBHS), in recognition of the movement’s inclusion of additional health care-related domains such as nursing, physical therapy, psychology (especially the mental health), and clinical social work (Perry, 2005). From the clinical social work, the EBM has influenced other domains within the social work profession.
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