In the United States, social workers provide 60 to 70 percent of mental health services. While evidence-based practice (EBP) is considered the ‘gold standard’ in practice, it is not fully integrated into most social work curriculum. “Evidence based practice is a popular buzz-phrase, but it is not really understood,” says PhD candidate Julie Tennille. “While most social work programs provide classroom instruction on EBP, social work students get half their education in the field and many field instructors are not familiar with EBP concepts.”

For her dissertation, Tennille, who spent many years working in Community Mental Health settings before pursuing a PhD, is researching the use of training dyads of field instructors and their social work students in Motivational Interviewing as a way to create a coherent learning experience and improve the capacity for understanding concepts of EBP. Her study is measuring whether participants in the training develop more positive attitudes toward EBP, as well as confidence to use research to inform their practice.

“Motivational Interviewing is broadly applicable to many client populations that social workers encounter in field practice,” she says. “I believe that training dyads of field instructors and social work student interns in the process of EBP, along with concepts and skills of Motivational Interviewing, is a strategy that has potential to promote competence based education in sustainable ways.”