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Evidence-Based Practice

The use of Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) to guide Social Work preparation and develop policies in human services has become increasingly important given the limited funding resources and the pressures on social service providers to document service outcomes. These pressures have emerged from increased scrutiny of public funding and the call for information about the impact of interventions with regard to the reduction of wasteful spending or total elimination of social problems.

The Catholic University of America’s online MSW program is designed to help emerging leaders in the field of social work to use EBP to help push the profession to new levels of effectiveness, by enhancing graduates, through targeted, evidence-backed teaching (SSS 582: Social Work Research) with the following skills:

  1. Define client, community, or policy-related data-based theory;
  2. Thorough research of past interventions;
  3. Assessing findings for quality and applicability;
  4. Applying these findings and considerations in practice;
  5. Evaluating the results.

Evidence-Based Practice is a process in which the Social Work practitioner combines well-researched client interventions with clinical experience and ethics. The desired outcome for the client is predicated on the aforementioned data points, as well as a combination of cultural and personal effectiveness markers, past intervention performance, and desired preference, resulting in a well-researched plan of action that delivers measurable results.

EBP entails a series of fact-based research procedures. It is intended for the application of rigorous expertise to arrive at the most effective intervention based upon objective research findings. EBP is becoming the go-to key performance indicator for social services in the 21st century.

Paradigm Shift

Present day perceptions of Social Work are hampered by traditional methods, and theoretical notions of how a profession is defined.

The traditional approach to providing social services subscribes to the wide-ranging approach for what Social Workers actually do. The application of the traditional approach is by nature nebulous. In an advanced society, EBP is able to remove the emotion from the discussion in terms of funding and individual programmatic effectiveness.

This new model for social work providers is required in a changing multi-cultural environment, where “one-sized-fits-all” approaches/interventions are no longer effective. By implementing statistical metrics, social workers will be able to provide the premium services to clients.

In an advanced technological society, practice technology is less forthcoming without technologically based skill. While Social Work has maintained some degree of technical expertise that is the generalist approach it is perceived universally as less rigorous than the so-called classic professions. That observation is the product of its technology where the generalist approach is less measurable and less amenable to public scrutiny.

The performance of the traditional approach to social services may also take place in a less amenable setting, necessitating the need for constant evaluation to assess outcomes. Subsequently, Social Workers seek and require community sanction and at times, are admonished for what they do when their work offends the public domain, i.e. recent lambasting against entitlement programs.

Social service providers who lack EBP expertise often encounter public scrutiny in the outcome of unpopular decision making, due to the absence of concrete date to back-up decision making.

The Benefit of Evidence-Based Practice:

  1. Accurate Information – In the field of social services, EBP is now the life-blood of the profession. The utilization of EBP models forces service providers and organizations to think in terms of constantly seeking out new information and analyzing their pre-existing assumptions. Rather than stagnating in a “this is how it’s always been done,” mindset, programs and practices are encouraged to evolve and to constantly be questioning the best way to serve constituents.
  2. Increased Funding – There is no question that funders are looking for organizations that are working with EBP models. The United States governmental agencies, in particular, now have detailed requirements for funding that often entail the collection of evidence and demonstrations of how those funds are being used to continually improve program outcomes. It is vital for social service organizations to assess how they are currently using evidence and whether there are more opportunities for them to embrace this new trend.
  3. Advanced Technology – By shifting the paradigm to an evidence-based approach, organizations also need to look at how they are using technology and often need substantial upgrades or improvements. While this can result in a certain amount of hassle during the time of change, encouraging organizations and service providers to use the available technology in the broadest way possible can often help them substantially improve their outcomes, often with significantly less effort. For this reason, EBP is imperative regarding the vitality of social service providers.


EBP integrates experienced social workers and effective services while considering the values and expectations of clients for their care. While the development of evidence that is based on controlled sample trials in the human services profession is still in its infancy, other types of knowledge hold promise for improving practice. This knowledge is increasingly available within agencies and is rapidly becoming available at the state, regional, and federal levels. Strategies such as state-provider, or state-university partnerships, staff training that features problem-based learning approaches and the modification of agency culture to support and sustain EBP hold promise for building evidence-based organizational cultures within the human services.

As a student of the online Master of Social Work program from the Catholic University of America, you will be prepared to empower at-risk populations of via Evidence-Based Practice, making Social Work an effective medium to help care for your fellow man.

To learn more about the online MSW program, call 855-295-5711 or click here for more information.