Challenges and Solutions to Evidence-Based Practice

Challenges and Solutions to Evidence-Based Practice




Research and Policy Differences

Evidence-based practice refers to the application of evidence to inform social work practice. Social workers rely on empirical and other types of evidence in making professional decisions in various scenarios during the course of their work. One of the advantages of evidence-based practice is that social workers rely on tested and proven methods which lead to the best outcomes. Despite the benefits of evidence-based practice, there are several challenges that social workers encounter. One of these is the disconnect between research and policy. Much research goes into finding the best evidence-based practices, but it takes time for these practices to be translated into policy. By the time social work policies are updated to reflect available research, there will be newer practices still, meaning social workers are unable to work with the latest evidence in the course of their practice (Grady et al., 2018). Both the social workers and the people they work with lose out as they may not have access to the most recent findings that may work best for them.

The solution to this disconnect between research and policy is to work towards an integrated system where policymakers work with researchers. The whole point of research is to find new and more effective ways of doing things, and this research should not go to waste due to the red tape and bureaucracy in policymaking. Policies should be frequently updated to reflect current research, encouraging innovation and leading to better outcomes for clients.


A second challenge with evidence-based practice is that it is mainly based on aggregate data, which is a generalization that may not apply to individual scenarios. Research generally relies on samples to study trends and the efficacy of different interventions. While samples are usually taken to represent a general population, every individual has a unique situation. The evidence used by the social worker may not apply to certain people in these circumstances. This presents a challenge to social workers who work with people from different backgrounds as they need to come up with different solutions (Scurlock-Evans & Upton, 2015). There may not be adequate evidence to guide the social worker on what they should do in some cases. Samples give a general idea of what to expect, but this comes at the price of specificity. The worker has to adjust their knowledge to the specific situation based on factors such as age, gender, cultural background, race, and severity of the problem.

The best way to deal with this challenge is to encourage social workers to tailor available evidence to individual situations. Cultural competence training is essential towards this end. This involves training workers to be aware of the cultural backgrounds of their clients, which affects the way they accept and respond to treatment. There is no one size fits all solution in social work, meaning that social workers should be competent enough to recognize which solutions work best in specific situations. Tailoring evidence to specific situations based on the circumstances will ensure the best outcomes for both the social worker and their clients. Social workers must have a high level of awareness to make the best judgment in different situations.

In summary, evidence-based practice is an essential tool for social workers. It guides them on which solutions work best based on collected evidence. The workers have a good idea of what solutions they should apply and what results to expect. Despite challenges such as the disconnect between research and policy and generalization, evidence-based practice is still a critical tool in social work. It equips social workers with relevant information and evidence that guides their practice, allowing them to make the best decisions for their clients.


Grady, M. D., Wike, T., Putzu, C., Field, S., Hill, J., Bledsoe, S. E., & Massey, M. (2018). Recent social work practitioners’ understanding and use of evidence-based practice and empirically supported treatments. Journal of Social Work Education, 54(1), 163-179.

Scurlock-Evans, L., & Upton, D. (2015). The role and nature of evidence: A systematic review of social workers’ evidence-based practice orientation, attitudes, and implementation. Journal of evidence-informed social work, 12(4), 369-399.