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Evidence-Based Practice in Social Work

Instructor: Danielle Reid

Danielle has taught middle school science and has a doctorate degree in Environmental Health

Social workers find the best way to help individuals or groups that require it. One way to make this determination is with evidence-based practice. Use this lesson to learn about this process and how it is incorporated into social work.

What is Evidence-Based Practice?

Have you ever looked online for a particular recipe? What did you do to find that recipe? Out of the many recipes you found, how did you pick the right one? Whether you are finding a recipe or buying an item online, gathering evidence about what you are searching ensures the right final decision is made. In social work, a similar process is used in the form of a process called evidence-based practice.

A Woman Making A Decision
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Evidence-based practice is the conscientious decision to use the best evidence available when making a decision about an individual's care. A process that first started in medicine, social workers use this when deciding on an intervention to use.

Intervention is a type of practice used to help address an individual or families need so that they are able to function in society. Social workers must decide what intervention they will implement to help a client. Additionally, they must also make sure that it is the best choice of intervention to use. Deciding on what intervention to use relies on a social worker's knowledge of the different theories used to explain a societal condition. Choosing the best possible intervention relies on the implementation of evidence-based practice.

Emergence Into the Field of Social Work

When the field of medicine introduced evidence-based practice it challenged medical providers to consider three things:

  1. choose the best quality care for their clients
  2. assess how qualified the available current evidence is
  3. present quality information to clients as they make an informed decision

No longer solely applicable to the field of medicine, these three considerations are equally important when deciding on a social work intervention. In fact, evidence-based practice is a process that focuses on three parts as shown in the illustration.

The Three Parts That Make Up Evidence Based Practice
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Not only do you need to have expertise in social work but you must also understand your client and use that information to find the best evidence to help address their needs. Collectively, all three parts support the fundamental importance of using this process. This is the need to evaluate information as a way to assess the most appropriate and accurate intervention for an individual or group of people.

How To Perform Evidence-Based Practice

There are a series of steps a social worker can follow when implementing evidence-based practices. Let's take a look at the steps in more depth:

Step 1: Ask questions

Upon meeting with the client(s) it is important to interview the client in order to assess the situation and determine the need to be met. This is the basis for determining what intervention would be required.

Step 2. Gather Information

Based on the need determined, there may be a series of interventions most appropriate. This is where gathering information through research helps build evidence in support of the best intervention to use. Gathering of information can involve resources ranging from science articles to current studies and peer reviewed literature.

Step 3: Choose and Refuse

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