Project pilot study was designed to test and refine a strategy
for implementing evidence-based practice (EBP) in several social
work agencies. The first and second phases of the project
consisted of a literature review on evidence-based practice in
social work, the dissemination of research in practice, and
open-ended interviews with eight expert intervention researchers
regarding the barriers, themes, and trends in the use of EBP. In
the third phase, data generated from initial focus groups with
agency personnel on their perceptions of EBP were compared with
data gathered from intervention researchers. The final phase was an actual dissemination and implementation
project conducted with teams from three large social service
agencies. This project provides a unique opportunity to identify
and learn from a working framework designed to connect EBP and
social work through partnership and collaboration between
clinicians and researchers.
The study is supported by funds
from the Columbia University Musher Program in collaboration with
the National Institute of Mental Health/Columbia University
School of Social Work Predoctoral Training Program in Mental
Health Services Research (#5 T32 MH14623-24/25).
The BEST project has a social
intervention research methodology, which provides for a process
of intervention design, piloting, and redesign based on
feedback. Because of the value of comparison across sites we
have set out to build that comparison by including three quite
different social work agencies. Following the social
intervention research approach, four sequential phases were
carried out and are described below.
Summaries of the study phases below are currently being updated. Please check this
page regularly for additional information, including forthcoming
presentations and publications.
Phase 1 and 2:
Current State of
Evidence Based Practice in Social Work and Analysis of Expert
Review of the literature was
conducted and synthesized on dissemination of EBP and social
work models for dissemination of EBP. Relevant literature was
identified through a search of local social work and public
health library holdings and by searching electronically several
multidisciplinary databases. Additional citations were collected
via reference lists.
Based on the themes identified in
the literature review, qualitative interviews were conducted
with experts in the field of EBP. The goal of the interviews was
to survey expert researchers in order to explore current
strategies, struggles, and observations about EBP to supplement
and speak to the themes described in the literature.
Both the literature reviewed and
respondents offered similar observations and themes regarding
EBP. The greatest agreement between the difference researchers
was found in the description of gaps and barriers to
implementing and disseminating EBP. Problems included poor
funding, a lack of training and support for agency staff and
practitioners, a lack of consumer involvement, a failure to
translate research into practice, and a lack of EBP education,
particularly at the master's level. Interviewees also described
efforts to identify the most viable options to address barriers
to implementing and disseminating EBP.
Bellamy, J., Bledsoe, S.E., & Traube, D.
(2006). The current state of evidence based practice in social work: A
review of the literature and qualitative analysis of expert interviews.
Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work, 3, 23-48.
Mullen, E., Bellamy, J.L., & Bledsoe, S.E.
(2005). Implementing evidence based practice in social work: a pilot
study. In P. Sommerfeld (Ed.), Evidence-based social work – towards a
new professionalism? (pp. 149-174). Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang.
Mullen, E. J., Shlonsky, A., Bledsoe, S. E., & Bellamy, J. L. (2005).
From concept to implementation: Challenges facing evidence based social
work. Evidence and Policy: A Journal of Debate, Research, and Practice,
Initial Focus Groups with Agency Staff on Implementing EBP with Data
Gathered from Expert Interviews
Built on the findings of phases
one and two, the third phase of this agency-university pilot
project was initiated to further explore the issues related to
EBP as played out in the effort to partner with, motivate, and
train agency personnel in the theory and processes of EBP,
provide technical assistance as agencies begin to use EBP, and
troubleshoot any barriers that may arise in the process. In this
phase, three of New York City’s most innovative social work
agencies were engaged in a pilot study in partnership with
Columbia University. Interviews, focus groups, and the
collaborative experience toward the use of EBP with agencies
provided valuable data as to how to address key criticisms of
EBP dissemination and implementation.
The literature review from phase
one suggests that there is a disconnection between researchers
and practitioners around EBP in social work. In order to begin
to address this gap, data gathered from literature and
interviews with researchers conducted in phases one and two of
this project will be compared with data gathered from focus
groups and interviews with agency based practitioners and
administrators. Results including agency and practitioners’
perceptions about current use of research and EBP in practice,
the utility of EBP in their work, what motivates them to use EBP,
and the tools they need to implement EBP.
Bellamy, J., Bledose, S.E., Fang, L.,
Manuel, J., Coppolino, C., Crumpley, J., Jean-François, J., & Mullen E.
J. (2006, January). Implementing evidence based practice: from research
to the front line. Poster presented at the Society for Social Work
Research Annual Meeting, San Antonio, TX.
Click here for the Poster in PDF
Evidence Based Practice in Social Service Agencies Through an
This phase of the project used a
pretest/posttest design to acquire pilot data on a program developed to
facilitate the dissemination and implementation of an EBP model in
social work agencies. EBP teams were formed in a convenience sample of
16 agency staff. Questionnaires and focus groups were completed with
participating staff from each agency before and after introduction of
the training program. Training topics related to EBP included problem
formulation, literature search, research assessment, and application of
research findings. Study staff also provided technical assistance to
agencies throughout the training process. Data from questionnaires and
focus groups were analyzed using SPSS and NVIVO, respectively.
Preliminary results indicate that,
across all three social service agencies, participants’
knowledge and perceived utility of EBP generally improved, while
the perceived types of barriers to implementing EBP remained
largely the same. Findings indicate that all three agencies
planned to sustain use of elements of EBP in practice and
attempt to implement the systematic use of EBP models of
practice. However, notable differences existed across the three
agencies in terms of how to implement and sustain EBP in their
agency cultures after the completion of the project. Almost all
participating staff emphasized the importance of technical
assistance, agency buy in, and other multi-level factors to help
bridge research and practice. Overall, agency staff reported
having a positive experience and provided useful feedback on
what was helpful and less helpful about the information and
skills they learned from the training.
& Bellamy, J. L. (October, 2007). Implementing evidence-based practice:
An overview of the Best Training with
practitioner responses. Paper presented at the Council on
Social Work Education 53rd Annual Program Meeting, San Francisco, CA.
Bellamy, J. L., Bledsoe, S. E., Mullen, E.
J., Fang, L. & Manuel, J. (In Press). Learning from agency-university
partnership for evidence-based practice in social work: Participant
voices from the BEST project, Journal of Social Work Education.
Manuel, J. I., Mullen, E. J. (Presenter),
Fang, L., Bellamy, J. L., & Bledsoe, S. E. (October, 2007). Preparing
Social Work Practitioners to use Evidence-based Practice: A Comparison
of Experiences from an implementation Project. Paper to be presented at
the Stockholm conference on implementation and translational research
October 14-16: Stockholm, Sweden.