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School of Social Service Administration Magazine

History Channelled Knowing how evidence-based practice began leads to better implementation

Book title: From Task-Centered Social Work to Evidence-Based Integrative Practice. Reflections on History and Implementation. Authors: Tina L. Rzepnicki, Stanley G. McCracken, and Harold E. BriggsTo work best, evidence-based practice in clinical work benefits from a solid understanding of the theory and history of the concept and the nuts-and-bolts of real-world implementation.

That's the underlying idea behind From Task-Centered Social Work to Evidence-Based and Integrative Practice: Reflections on History and Implementation, a new book co-edited by David and Mary Winton Green Professor Tina Rzepnicki, Senior Lecturer Stanley McCracken (both SSA alumni) and Harold Briggs, A.M. ’80, Ph.D. ’88, a professor at the Portland State University School of Social Work. Released by Lyceum Books, the book is a series of essays written by leading evidence-based practice scholars in two parts.

The first section delves into the development of evidence-based practice and its application across areas of social work theory. Beginning with the task-centered model in the late 1960s, contributors outline the various approaches that researchers and practitioners have cultivated, including the personal practice model, cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic theory. The second half of the book explores applications of EBP in the implementation of programs and interventions. 

The book’s essays are largely drawn from the speakers at a symposium for SSA’s Centennial in 2009, and all the authors have some association with the School. “Tina and I were trained by [SSA faculty members] William Reid and Laura Epstein, who founded the task-centered approach. That framework is how we approach the work: research and practice are one activity,” McCracken says. “That’s what we do at SSA—apply social science to real-world problems.”

The approach outlined in the book emphasizes the need for evidence to come from the field as well as academia, and the need to account for organizational and dissemination constraints early in the implementation process. While firmly rooted in past developments that led to the contemporary evidence-based practice approach to social work, the book also looks toward a future of innovations that aggregate evidence from a variety of sources.

Like the symposium itself, the book is aimed at a varied audience of scholars, practitioners and program managers. “A number of papers are out there that raise implementation issues. This book is different in that it discusses strategies to deal with the issues,” Rzepnicki says. “A big motivation for us was to highlight the things in implementing program development that make it messy, and to have the authors address how they have dealt with those issues.” — James Baatz