Outcomes of social work intervention in the context of evidence-based practice

Mullen, Edward Joseph

Summary: This article explores the general outcomes of social work interventions as reported in journal review articles that have examined that question since 1990.
Findings: There is now a large body of evidence supporting the effectiveness of a wide range of social work interventions with a wide range of social problems and populations. It is reasonable to conclude that approximately 2/3 of clients served by social workers benefit in measurable ways. These positive outcomes remain, even after controlling for publication and investigator bias. The reviews examined in this article also suggest that theoretical orientation does not account for differential outcomes, however, differential intervention outcomes have been found when contrasting alternate interventions and specifying target problem or condition.
Applications: What are currently needed are studies and systematic reviews that contrast credible, alternative intervention options under highly specific conditions. Using comparative effectiveness strategies, specification of differential effectiveness should now be a focus of research to answer questions such as what intervention, under what circumstances, for what problem, under what conditions, in what population, has what effect and at what cost. Evidence-based practice will be strengthened and enriched to the extent such systematic reviews become available.
Additionally, findings are sufficiently encouraging to recommend that promising social work interventions with specific social problems and specific populations be more carefully studied with particular attention to questions of cost-effectiveness since few studies have used designs or measures that examine cost-effectiveness or cost-benefit questions.



  • thumnail for Outcomes_of_social_work_intervention.doc Outcomes_of_social_work_intervention.doc application/msword 123 KB Download File

Also Published In

Journal of Social Work

More About This Work

Academic Units
Social Work
Published Here
March 18, 2015