Ruth J. Parsons and Jean East
The concept of empowerment has deep roots in social work practice. Building upon the work of empowerment theorists of the 1980s and 1990s and applied broadly in the 2000s [Itzhaky and York (2000), Social Work Research, 24, 225–234; Travis and Deepak (2011), Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Social Work, 20, 203–222], the concept of empowerment has evolved from a philosophical level to practice frameworks and methods. Substantial research confirms empowerment outcomes as personal, interpersonal, and sociopolitical. Practice interventions contain both personal and structural dimensions and are accomplished through multilevel interventions. Based on transformation ideology, empowerment is a counter to perceived and objective powerlessness. Social work relationships provide an opportunity for experiencing power and collaboration. Empowerment interventions are often useful with vulnerable populations, such as women and members of stigmatized groups.
Allan Hugh Cole Jr.
This entry discusses principal ways in which knowledge and knowing have been understood within philosophy, science, and social science, with implications for contemporary social work practice. Attention is given to various types of knowledge, its necessary conditions, scope, and sources. It focuses particularly on how practice wisdom remains a key source of knowledge for social work theory and practice, and suggests that greater epistemological clarity could further competent social work practice in an increasingly pluralistic world.
Jeane W. Anastas
Social work researchers hold themselves to general ethical standards for biomedical and social science research and to the values specific to social work. This article describes (a) the general ethical principles guiding research involving human beings, (b) mechanisms for the ethical review of studies involving human beings, (c) ethical issues in research on vulnerable populations such as children and adolescents, recipients of care, and other socially marginalized groups, and (d) plagiarism, authorship, and conflict of interest. Current topics in the responsible conduct of research include the use of clinical and audio or video data, participatory action research, and Internet-based studies.
Jeffrey M. Jenson and Matthew O. Howard
Evidence-based practice (EBP) is an educational and practice paradigm that includes a series of predetermined steps aimed at helping practitioners and agency administrators identify, select, and implement efficacious interventions for clients. This entry identifies definitions of EBP and traces the evolution of EBP from its origins in the medical profession to its current application in social work. Essential steps in the process of EBP and challenges associated with applying EBP to social work practice, education, and research are noted.
S. J. Dodd and Andrea Savage
Evidence-informed practice (EIP) is a model that incorporates best available research evidence; client’s needs, values, and preferences; practitioner wisdom; and theory into the clinical decision-making process filtered through the lens of client, agency, and community culture. The purpose of this article is to define and describe the evidence-informed practice model within social work and to explore the evolution of evidence-informed practice over time. The article distinguishes evidence-informed practice from the more commonly known (and perhaps more popular) evidence-based practice. And, having outlined the essential components of evidence-informed practice, describes the barriers to its effective implementation. Critical contextual factors related to the implementation of evidence-informed practice at the individual level, as well as within social work organizations, are also addressed. Finally, implications both for social work practice and education are explored.
Charles L. Usher
Experimental and quasi-experimental research provides the foundation for all evidence-based practice systems that seek to identify and promote the use of social work practices of demonstrated effectiveness. This reflects the prevailing perspective that experimental research is the only definitive basis for claims that certain outcomes can be altered by the effects of a given intervention. At this point in the evolution of social work research, however, the body of work based on experimentation is not extensive. In response to the challenges of implementing experiments related to social interventions, researchers have developed new approaches, such as group randomized designs. Also, newly developed statistical methods may provide ways to control the selection bias inherent in quasi-experimental designs. This entry explores the central place of experimental and quasi-experimental designs in social work research, the challenges of using them, and recent developments that may expand their use.
Cynthia Franklin and Laura M. Hopson
Family intervention has become an important tool for social work practitioners. This entry provides a brief history of family intervention and important influences as well as a synopsis of current research. Although these interventions require more research to better understand the populations for whom they are most effective, the evidence supports their usefulness in addressing such issues as aggression, substance use, and depression, among others.
Lois F. Cowles
Social work in health care emerged with immigration and urbanization associated with industrialization, and the resultant shift from physician visits to the patient's home and workplace to hospital-centered care. This change is alleged to have resulted in a loss of the doctor's perspective of the psychosocial influences on physical health. Originally, some nurses were assigned the function of addressing this loss. But eventually, the function became recognized as that of a social worker. From its beginnings in the general hospital setting in the late 1800s, social work in health care, that is, medical social work, has expanded into multiple settings of health care, and the role of the social worker from being a nurse to requiring a Master's Degree in Social Work (MSW) from a university. However, the broad function of social work in health care remains much the same, that is, “to remove the obstacles in the patient's surroundings or in his mental attitude that interfere with successful treatment, thus freeing him to aid in his own recovery” (Cannon, 1923. p 15). Health care social workers are trained to work across the range of “methods,” that is, work with individuals, small groups, and communities (social work “methods” are called “casework”, “group work” and “community organization”). They work to assist the patient, using a broad range of interventions, including, when indicated, speaking on behalf of the client (advocacy), helping clients to assert themselves, to modify undesirable behaviors, to link with needed resources, to face their challenges, to cope with crises, to develop improved understanding of their health-related thought processes and habits, to build needed self confidence to do what is required to help themselves deal with their health problem, to gain insight and support from others who are in a similar situation, to gain strength from humor, or from a supportive environment, and through spiritual experience, and from practicing tasks that are needed to deal with their health-related problems or from joining forces with others in the community to modify it in the interest of improved health status for all, or to gradually restore a sense of stability and normalcy after a traumatic experience. Most important of all, perhaps, is the “helping relationship” between client and social worker, which needs to be one of total understanding and acceptance of the client as a person. A sizable portion of the U.S. population lacks financial access to health care, where health care is regarded as a privilege rather than a right, as it is seen in all other industrial nations (except South Africa). Current trends in the U.S. health care system reflect efforts to control rising health care costs without dealing with the “real problems,” which are: (1) the lack of a single-payer health care system and: (2) the lack of focus on “public health.”
Social workers working with individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families require an understanding of the disabilities themselves as well as the larger context of disability in society. Individuals with disabilities face particular risks for poverty and poor healthcare, and it is essential for social workers to understand the complex web of social services available. Furthermore, social workers often work not only with the person with a disability but also with their caregiving families.
David P. Moxley
Interdisciplinarity links social work to other disciplines within complex domains of practice. Contrasted with multidisciplinary practice, in which social workers practice alongside other disciplines and professions, all of whom pursue their own intervention aims, interdisciplinarity requires a blending and combining of those practices distinctive within each of the disciplines in pursuit of a common set of outcomes. Interdisciplinarity requires collaboration, the integration of knowledge and action, and the formation of a common agenda of practice guided by unified goals. While interdisciplinary practice amplifies the distinctiveness of social work in a given domain, it underscores engagement of the profession in collaborative knowledge development, social learning, and innovation.