Evidence-based practice in an age of relativism: toward a model for practice

Soc Work. 2006 Apr;51(2):147-56. doi: 10.1093/sw/51.2.147.


Evidence-based practice (EBP) is considered a hallmark of excellence in clinical practice. However, many social workers are uncertain about how to implement this approach to practice. EBP involves integrating clinical expertise and values with the best available evidence from systematic research while simultaneously considering the client's values and expectations--all within the parameters of the agency mandate and any legislative or environmental considerations. This article explores the feasibility of EBP and attempts to steer a course between those who advocate an EBP model that may appear unachievable to many clinicians and those who dismiss it outright on philosophical grounds. Five areas that affect the feasibility of EBP are explored: misconceptions about EBP, confusion about philosophical issues, questions about the quality of evidence needed to support EBP, substantive knowledge domains required for practice, and issues related to knowledge transfer and translation. An important theme of this analysis is the central role of clinical judgment in all aspects of EBP.

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Social Work*
  • United States