Joel Fischer

The National Association of Social Workers in the US published a piece by the little-known Joel Fischer in the journal Social Work at the beginning of 1973. Fischer questioned whether there was any evidence of the efficacy of social casework following the professionalization of social work through the work of Mary Richmond and the formation of higher education for social work. Are the desired objectives met?

Many people were shocked to learn from research conducted at the time that social casework was not particularly helpful and that roughly 50% of the clients had worse outcomes after treatment. As a result, Fischer contends that social work should not rest on its laurels and instead critically examine the results of its efforts. "The question of efficacy of practice always must be of vital concern to the profession and cannot be brushed off," Fischer writes.

The paper by Joel Fischer provoked discussion in later issues of Social Work and other academic social work publications. In the total body of social work literature, it is likely one of the most often reproduced and mentioned single publications. The essay and the discussion that followed can be considered as the beginning of professional skepticism, not in a cynical way, but rather as a sound basis for examining one's work and keeping tabs on the outcomes of social interventions in order to ensure ongoing progress.

Instead of continuing to cast doubt on social work's efficacy, Fischer wrote a number of manuals on how to combine science and social work in the decades following 1973. In 2009, His Evaluating Practice received its sixth edition (co-authored with Martin Bloom and John Orme). The use of single-system designs to assess social work practice is the main topic. Fischer exuded contagious optimism and enthusiasm for the fusion of science and social work. By the year 2000, empirically based practice, the "new social work," may be the standard or be well on the road to becoming one, he predicted in a 1993 essay. Although it may be claimed that scientifically grounded social work is still uncommon, the why and how issues are undoubtedly taking center stage in many professional discussions.

Since 1973, professional skepticism has drawn a lot of attention as the catalyst for innovation. Following the lead of medicine, social work today makes investments in evidence-based practice. There has been a lot published about this topic, and organizations like the Campbell Collaboration (C2) and the Social Care Institute of Excellence (SCIE) make it a key component of their missions to support the scientific foundation of social work.


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