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What Evidence-Based Practice Really Means

What Evidence-Based Practice Really Means

Evidence-based practice has received criticism for being a “cook book”, cost saving  approach to practice that discounts clinical expertise and clients’ preferences and values.  These critiques often result from the misconception that the term “evidence-based practice” or EBP refers to a manualized intervention that has research to support its effectiveness.

Evidenced-based practice is a process by which the school social worker identifies and selects an intervention based on research, clinical expertise, client input, and environmental context:

school social work evidence based practice

5 Step Process of Evidence-Based Practice:

1. Identify the question or problem.
e.g. What interventions have been shown to decrease self-injurious behavior in African-American adolescent females.

2. Search for the evidence/research
See my article on: Where to find evidence-based interventions

3. Evaluate the evidence
The University of North Carolina’s Guide to Evaluating the Evidence (the guide pertains to medical research, but the application is the same).

4. Choose the best intervention
The decision is made based on client characteristics and preferences, clinical expertise, resources, available research, and environmental context (see above diagram)

5. Evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention
Measures for screening, assessing, and evaluating practice

When properly understood as a process, the critiques of evidence-based practice as being a cookie-cutter approach that dismisses clinical judgement and restricts client autonomy have no merit.

What do you think?



About The Author(s)


Scott Carchedi is the founder and co-editor of SSWN. Scott provides technology support and consultative services to number of school social work associations throughout the US. Scott is also a practicing school social worker in the western suburbs of Chicago, serving grades 8-12.

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