Prevention as an Explicit Part of the Social Work Profession: A Systematic Investigation


  • Emily L. McCave West Virginia University
  • Carrie W. Rishel West Virginia University



Prevention, social work profession, social work literature, Social Work Speaks, EPAS


Historically, social workers have espoused a philosophy of prevention. However, this philosophy has not consistently translated into prevention-focused social work practice. This gap in social work practice is of concern given the growing federal attention placed on prevention efforts in key social work arenas, such as health, mental health, and substance abuse. In an effort to illustrate this practice gap, this article presents a systematic investigation of the status of prevention and social work through the examination of three seminal indicators including: the social work literature, the 2009-2012 National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Social Work Speaks, and the 2008 Educational Policy Accreditation Standards (EPAS). Results indicate that the social work profession lacks an emphasis on prevention, as well as cohesiveness regarding prevention across social work practice, education, and scholarship. Opportunities for integrating prevention into the profession are highlighted for key stakeholders, namely social work scholars, educators, and practitioners.

Author Biographies

Emily L. McCave, West Virginia University

Division of Social Work Assistant Professor

Carrie W. Rishel, West Virginia University

Division of Social Work Associate Professor