Science and Pseudoscience in Social Work Practice

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Science and Pseudoscience in Social Work Practice

SKU# 9780826177681

Author: Bruce A. Thyer PhD, LCSW, BCBA-D, Monica G. Pignotti PhD, LMSW

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Science is a way of thinking about and investigating the accuracy of assumptions about the world. It is a process for solving problems in which we learn from our mistakes. Social work has a long history of social reform and helping efforts. Let us continue this by paying attention to the important message of this book.

--Eileen Gambrill, PhD, School of Social Welfare

University of California at Berkeley (From the Foreword)

Although many psychosocial interventions used in social work practice have strong research evidence supporting their efficacy, a surprising number do not, potentially resulting in harmful outcomes. In this book, the authors cast a critical eye on the reality of commonly used scientific and pseudoscientific practices in social work today. Stressing the need for separating research-based practices from those not supported by adequate levels of evidence, they examine the scientific and pseudoscientific bases for popular social work interventions used in a variety of treatment settings.

The text examines the misuse of legitimate research and describes how social work education training can and should discourage pseudoscience. The concluding chapter describes pathways through which social work practice can become more firmly grounded in contemporary scientific research. This engaging book is intended for courses in critical thinking and evidence-based practice and is a valuable resource for all social work students and practitioners.

Key Features:

  • Promotes critical thinking regarding the evidence-based research--or lack thereof--behind a variety of social work interventions
  • Written by renowned social work educators
  • Addresses the history and characteristics of pseudoscience
  • Examines pseudoscience practices in assessment and work with children, adolescents, adults, and individuals with developmental difficulties

Product Details 

  • Publication Date May 15, 2015
  • Page Count 330
  • Product Form Paperback / softback
  • ISBN 13 9780826177681
  • EISBN 9780826177698

Table of Contents 

Bruce A. Thyer, PhD, LCSW, BCBA-D, is a professor and former dean, College of Social Work, Florida State University. He is a licensed clinical social worker and a board-certified behavior analyst. He has served in elected national leadership roles with the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR), the Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work, the Council on Social Work Education, and the Association for Professional Behavior Analysts. He is a fellow of the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science, the Social Work Academy of the National Academies of Practice, and the SSWR. Dr. Thyer founded and continues to edit one of social work’s premier journals, Research on Social Work Practice. He has written more than 250 articles in professional journals and more than 100 book chapters, and has produced more than 35 books. His research interests involve the promotion of evidence-based practice, evaluation research, applied behavior analysis, and clinical social work theory and practice.

Monica G. Pignotti, PhD, LMSW, is a licensed master social worker in the state of New York. She has taught social work practice, social work research, and diversity in social work courses. She has authored numerous book chapters and articles in professional journals, and keeps a blog on potentially harmful and other questionable therapies. She is a member of the Association for Psychological Science and the Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology.


Foreword by Eileen Gambrill, PhD



1. Characteristics of Science and Pseudoscience in Social Work Practice

2. Pseudoscience in Clinical Assessment

3. Pseudoscience in Treating Children and Adolescents

4. Pseudoscience in Treating Adults Who Experienced Trauma

5. Other Pseudoscientific Interventions for Adults

6. Pseudoscience in Developmental Disabilities

7. Pseudoscience in Social Work Education and Training

8. Promoting Science and Discouraging Pseudoscience: The Way Forward