Canadian social workers and complementary and alternative therapies: a web based survey of their knowledge, use and attitudes.

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Partyka, Elzbieta
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The growing interest and use of complementary and alternative approaches by the general public has created pressure on many health care providers to broaden their traditional scope of practice and integrate complementary and alternative therapies into their repertoire. This study examined the knowledge, attitudes, and level of integration of complementary and alternative approaches by Canadian social workers. Due to limited literature on social work use of complementary and alternative approaches, a broad operational definition of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) was utilized in the study and a wide range of approaches were listed in the questionnaire. This cross-sectional, descriptive, quantitative research study included 311 Canadian social workers. A self-administered, web-based survey was developed for the study to examine social workers’ level of knowledge, use, as well as attitudes toward complementary and alternative medicine. Based on the findings of the study, Canadian social workers demonstrate general familiarity with CAM, however are less likely to be trained in the approaches. Despite lack of appropriate training, a significant number of social workers integrate complementary and alternative approaches into their practice. Overall, Canadian social workers hold a positive attitude toward complementary and alternative medicine. They express interest in broadening their knowledge in CAM as well as are open to integrating some approaches into their practice. Implications of the findings and further research suggestion are offered at the conclusion of the thesis. There are several implications from this study, most importantly the need for clear guidelines around integration of those approaches into social work practice and inclusion of complementary and alternative methods into social work educational curriculum. There exists number of external and internal threats to validity of the study. The limitations of the study include lack of participation from a number of Canadian provincial social work regulatory bodies. Also the use of web based, English only survey, and may have deterred some social workers. Self-selection process may have attracted those with extreme opinions about the topic. The descriptive nature of the study did not require manipulation of the variables, the analysis was bi-variate, and, therefore could not account for confounding factors.
social work, CAM, alternative therapies, complementary therapies, attitudes toward CAM, knowledge of CAM, integration