Social work has a completely different meaning to me than it did when I started the pre-major coursework a little over a year ago. I’ve since learned that social workers really, really have to know what they’re doing – not just for the benefit of their clients, but also to stay licensed. We believe we can change the world because the world is made of people, and since we work with people, the impetus for evidence-based practice is ever-growing. The world is changing and nations are industrializing, expanding, warring and oppressing, and the people within those societies are adapting to changing ways of life.
As social workers, we train to be able to see the multitude of invisible lines within the systems that hold our lives together, or divide us. We learn to recognize the disconnects, and to help our clients figure out how to reconnect the dots. We view the world through a lens of person-in-environment, that is to say, we seek to understand the context in which our clients live.
The social sciences have an inherent obligation not only to keep abreast of current relevant research, but also to be competent enough to apply new treatments and insights within their practice. Social workers are truly dedicated professionals who have to complete a minimum number of continuing education credits to continue practicing. We don’t get to pick and choose the individuals we help, which is why we have to constantly develop our cultural competencies to identify the strengths of those we are helping. So, research is important to social work because it helps us be effective!
According to the NASW, research in social work helps us:
- Assess the needs and resources of people in their environments
- Evaluate the effectiveness of social work services in meeting peoples needs
- Demonstrate relative costs and benefits of social work services
- Advance professional education in light of changing contexts for practice
- Understand the impact of legislation and social policy on the clients and communities we serve
(Retrieved from http://www.socialworkpolicy.org/research)
To find appropriate intervention strategies for our clients, we use a strategy called COPES, which is an acronym for Client Oriented Practical Evidence Search. All of our clients are different and will be facing diverse challenges, so the first step in our search is to determine the specific problem we need to address. Next, we consider what we might be inclined to do and then devise alternate courses of action. There must be a clear objective, as this will guide us in choosing the most relevant research, however, we never want to assume to know the “correct” course of treatment right away. Once we have located perhaps a dozen promising articles, we carefully assess each one for relevancy, clarity, reliability, validity, and applicability.
I still do not know what my research question will be for my senior thesis, but I am beginning to pare down some topics that interest me such as:
- Effects of childhood trauma
- The school-to-prison pipeline
- Trauma-informed therapies within prisons
- Effectiveness of prison diversion programs