Evidence Based Practice Social Work

Social work is a complex field. The purpose of social work is to help others, whether at a micro, mezzo, or macro level. Social work is entirely about helping humans. Thus, it is naturally a continually evolving field due to the diversity of humans. Further, social work resources vary both in theory and practice. While not every theory that exists is fully tested, many are and they are what is used to influence practice. Theory helps to explain an issue and practice helps show how that theory works. In an article published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the authors define evidence based medicine (EBM) as, “EBM integrates clinical experience and patient values with the best available research information.” 

Evidence based practice (EBP) social work does the same thing. Humans are continually evolving and naturally so is social work. EBP social work utilizes practice that is found in scientific evidence and research. However, this is something that is continually changing. It isn’t so frequent that no research has any value. Simply as frequent enough to properly keep up with changing societies and the needs of people. 

Social Work Theory

There are a variety of theories applicable to social work. Different programs emphasize different theories. While we cannot discuss each one in-depth here, we can go over a few that most programs will likely cover. 

A well known theory is systems theory. Simmons University explains, “It is premised on the idea that an effective system is based on individual needs, rewards, expectations, and attributes of the people living in the system” and thus “…families, couples, and organization members are directly involved in resolving a problem even if it is an individual issue.”

Another common one is social learning theory. This is based on behavioral theory and was further developed by Albert Bandura. A significant point he made was, “Behavior is learned from the environment through the process of observational learning.” Positive or negative reinforcement are important to whether negative behavior is allowed to continue. To create and maintain new behavior, it is important to see the positive behavior modeled. 

Social Work Practice

According to Simmon University, a common practice is task-centered practice. This is where a social worker and their client work together to create strategies and take steps to reach goals. Through a number of sessions, they may practice and work together on making these strategies a reality. 

Another effective form of EBP is problem solving. In this scenario, social workers give clients the tools to learn problem solving so they can come up with their own solutions. This is another useful practice to help show clients ways of learning new behaviors. 

There are many other practices that schools and places of employment will likely emphasize. Even after school, continuing education in other ways is important. This ensures you are keeping up to date with current research, theories, and practice. Doing so will be most beneficial to you and your clients.

Utilizing Evidence Based Practice Social Work

A social worker’s clients are incredibly diverse. They will respond differently to various practices. Even those from a homogeneous background will obviously not all respond well to the same practices. While this is potentially obvious to some, it is important for social workers to keep this in mind. A client might get through a number of sessions and end up needing a different EBP.

The outlook for career growth with social workers is positive. With both an increasing and aging population the need for more social workers will continue. As humans continue to live longer, the need for geriatric care is increasing significantly. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects significant demand for social workers to continue over the next decade. Within this demand, they expect increasing need in healthcare to help an aging population.

If you are interested in learning more about social work and earning your master’s degree, check out our guides here.