Strengthening Evidence-Based Practice

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Social work practitioners have historically been viewed as those who use not only scientific orientation for case work but also the results of research studies for clinical decision making. Dominant conceptions of evidence-based practice emphasize the social worker as a user of scientific findings, with only a minor role given to the social worker as a scientifically oriented practitioner. Problems with this emphasis include a limited base of validated interventions for social work practice, overestimations and shortfalls in the effectiveness of such interventions, and unresolved issues in transporting research findings to actual work with clients. Evidence-based practice could be strengthened by broadening the notion of evidence to include data obtained by practitioners in the application of research-supported interventions—data that might indicate, for example, whether the intervention (or one of its modifications) worked or needed to be changed.

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