Abstracts of Volume Three of Computers in Human Services, 1988


Volume 3 (1/2), 1988

Introduction by John W. Murphy & John T. Pardeck

Social Work Practice in a High Tech Era by Robert P. Stewart

ABSTRACT: The United States is entering the era of high tech. In order for this transition to be accomplished smoothly, a variety of policies must be formulated. Nonetheless, the U.S. appears to be moving ahead with technological development without a coherent plan to solve the problems that may result from this growth. This paper analyzes some of the key issues that must be addressed to measure technology is used to foster the common good. Accordingly the relationship between technology and social work practice is discussed, in order to illustrate to social practitioners the limitations and benefits associated with high tech instruments.


Artificial Intelligence: An Introduction by William H. Butterfield

ABSTRACT: This article offers a brief introduction to the topic of Artificial Intelligence (Al). Its intended audience are social service administrators and workers who are not familiar with the concepts of AI. The article briefly discusses: the concept of Al, recent developments in the field, some of the underlying controversies, why Al is important for the delivery of social services, how it can be applied in social service programs and, finally, some of the ethical and legal issues that arise out of the use of computers in social service agencies.


Development of Management Information Systems for Human Services: A Practical Guide by John S. Wodarski

ABSTRACT: This manuscript reviews the role of management in-formation systems in human service agencies. It addresses managerial applications client descriptive analyses, diagnosis, treatment planing, documentation of program implementation and effectiveness, research operations, specific clinical procedures, and educational functions. The manuscript provides guidelines for establishing requisites for the development and selection of an adequate information system, dissemination of information, and application of relevant knowledge. Finally, the implications of management information systems for the field of social work are reviewed.


Computerized Assessment Instruments: Their Promise and Problems by Walter W. Hudson, Paula S. Nurius, and Sorel Reisman

ABSTRACT: This article examines a number of issues that must be considered when using a variety of computer environments and software to assess client problems and to evaluate progress in treatment. Since there is a rapidly growing interest in and use of computer technology for client assessment using standardized instruments, it is important to examine the performance and the potential that is provided by such technology. The article examines present and future possibilities, performance standards, and the strengths and weaknesses of computer-based assessments. In concluding the article, guidelines are offered for practitioners to consider when selecting various approaches to the use of computer-based assessment instruments. Readers who are new to the use of computer-based assessments are provided access to systems which they may obtain at no cost in order to gain familiarity with such applications.


Ethical Issues in the Use of Computer-Based Assessment by Harold P. Erdman and Sharon W. Foster

ABSTRACT: In the past several years, increasing concern has been raised about the ethical issues involved in computer applications in mental health, particularly regarding computerized psychological testing and interpretation. The ethical concerns are reviewed relative to the various activities computers may be asked to perform. The authors argue that in some cases the use of computer-assisted assessment may be viewed as at least as, if not more, ethical than the clinician. In others, particularly regarding computer-based test interpretation, the authors recognize the existence of problems, but feel solutions for many of these exist. Even where problems remain, these should not preclude the use of these technologies, but rather signal the need for careful use. Some specific concerns covered are dehumanization, nonvalidated computer test interpretation, the use of computer assessment by untrained individuals, potential negative effects for minorities, and cultural bias and covert and omnipresent assessment. Finally, computer-assisted assessment is viewed as a potentially powerful tool, the development and empirical testing of which needs to be considered separate from current, and at times, ethically objectionable patterns of misuse.


Computer Technology and Behavior Therapy: A Modern Marriage by Terry Holbrook

ABSTRACT: Computer technology and behavior therapy operate on similar tenets. Moreover, these two factors are beginning to play a large role in the delivery of social services. Yet the emphasis they place on quantification and exact measurement should not blind practitioners to the qualitative side of social work practice. Care must be taken to insure that both computer and therapeutic techniques are implemented in a manner that humanizes these procedures. Suggestions are made relative to facilitating this aim.


Technology and the "Not Always So Human" Services by Howard Jacob Karger and Larry W. Kreuger

In this paper, postmodern philosophies such as phenomenology and critical theory are used to examine computer use. As a result, computers are illustrated to operate on the basis of conceptions of space and time that may affect adversely their users. Furthermore, the benefits derived from using computers may never be realized because of the organizational implications that accompany the implementation of this technology. Due to various detrimental changes in the nature of work and the workplace, the delivery of social services may be severely impaired. A number of recommendations are offered to m8inimize the disruptive effects of computer use.


The Computer Micro-World, Knowledge and Social Planning by John W. Murphy and John T. Pardeck

ABSTRACT: Practitioners must begin to recognize that technology encompasses far more than machinery. In fact, computers do not operate on the basis of technical knowledge alone, but rather specific philosophical tenets must be accepted before data processing is possible. Simply put, computers function according to the principles associated with a unique approach to conceptualizing knowledge, sometimes called a "world-view." This world-view, moreover, shapes how behavior is classified and services are delivered. In this paper, the importance of the computer world-view for planning social services is outlined.


Microcomputers in Social Work Education by Carlton E. Munson

ABSTRACT: Microcomputer use has increased dramatically in the last five years. Use of this technology has expanded rapidly in social work education, but less rapidly in clinical practice. Trends in educational and practice uses of this technology are explored along with the limitations of and myths about computers in education and practice. Educational curriculum issues are identified and an outline for planning computer content is provided. Advantages of teaching computers as transient information or enduring knowledge are covered. Concerns about availability of equipment and supports are raised.


Volume 3 (3/4), 1988

Mental Health Computing in Great Britain by James Hedlund

ABSTRACT: This article reviews the current status of mental health computing in great Britain. Although early applications with computer-aided diagnosis, case registers, and the processing of research data are noted, current development seems to emphasize automated psychological testing (especially as related to cognitive functioning), computerized clinical interviews (both for clinical data collection and behavioral therapy), and the routine automation of a minimal patient data set for administrative functions.


How to Get Readable Reports or What Do I Really Need to Know About MY Data? By Michael A. King

ABSTRACT: Computer printouts are often difficult to read and are produced in such volume that social work administrators do not have the time to analyze the data and derive meaning from them. Computers can be programmed to accomplish the analysis through a cross-tabulation algorithm that identifies the relationships among the various fields in the database and prints only the significant data. The report itself can be programmed for readability by use of a narrative form instead of tables and by limiting the main report to the highlights that need attention.


The Computerized Self-Help Clearinghouse: Using 'High Tech" to Promote "High Touch" Support Networks by Edward Madara, John Kalafat, and Bruce N. Miller

ABSTRACT: This paper notes the rapid growth of self-help groups and the potential for co-optation of self-help initiatives on the part of professionals who work with these groups and organizations. The nation's first statewide, computerized Self-Help Clearinghouse is then described, which adapts a variety of "high tech" approaches from the computer and telecommunications field to referral, consultation, networking and epidemiological research efforts with self-help groups. Through these approaches, the Clearinghouse promotes the growth, development, and accessibility of self-help groups while protecting their autonomy.


Using the Systems Development Life Cycle for Computer Applications in Human Services by E. Sam Overman

ABSTRACT: This paper examines the systems development life cycle (SDLC) as one major way to improve successful development, implementation and use of computer applications in human services. The systems development life cycle of a hospital-based case management system is described to demonstrate a successful system. Issues of the uniqueness of human service applications, the use of microcomputer technology, and prototyping as an alternative to the SDLC are analyzed in relation to the case study.


Encountering Microcomputers: A Phenomenological Analysis by Larry W. Kreuger

ABSTRACT: Explored are the typical features of the experiences of first time, novice microcomputer users who are unfamiliar with basic computer equipment. Upon encountering a microcomputer for the first time such persons face a set of novel experiences including inadequate knowledge, and altered sense of time, concerns about scarce capacity and dexterity, technological anxiety, and several other factors. Questions are raised about the consequences of encountering microcomputers among first time users in an effort to explicate the most important factors associated with successful accommodation. This analysis may provide helpful information for those engaged in computer training and staff development in the human services.


Mental Health Management Decision Making in the Age of the Computer by Paul R. Binner

ABSTRACT: Both modern computer technology and the current community oriented era of mental health programs developed into important phenomena in the 1950s. The availability of the new technology at the beginning of a period of fundamental reform in mental health raised high hopes for the positive support information technology could contribute to the mental health program reform movement. Over the past thirty years, computer technology has developed and flourished far beyond anyone's greatest expectations. At the same time, while many valuable and interesting mental health computer applications have been produced, the impact of the computer on the overall development and management of mental health services has been limited. Another major wave of reform, this time in terms of funding patterns, is now on the horizon for mental health. It would appear that the Impact of the computer in the management of future mental health programs could either be very positive or very negative, depending on the management tools and the logic employed. The importance of managing for results rather than for ''profitability" is discussed.


Computer Use in the Human Services by Les Senner, Barry G. Young, S. Richard Gunn, and Charles L. Schwartz

ABSTRACT: The membership of four professional associations (two psychology and two social work) in one Canadian province and one U.S. state in the Great Plains Region were surveyed in order to describe (and compare) the nature and degree of computer use at home and in the office. While the microcomputer is emerging in a variety of applications and settings on both sides of the border, there were unexpected differences in the frequency of its application. Scientists are now preparing a fifth generation of computers incorporating concepts of artificial intelligence with the latest technological developments. From vacuum tubes to the integrated circuit of the microchip, computers have become more compact, more capable and now more accessible to all. This paper reports the results of a 1985 survey of microcomputer ownership and computer use


An Exploratory Study of a Computer-Assisted Alcohol Education Program by Scott T. Meier

ABSTRACT: In many alcohol prevention and treatment programs, education is one of the components employed to change attitudes towards alcohol and drinking behavior. This exploratory research sought to determine whether brief exposure to a computer-based alcohol education program can improve attitudes toward alcohol and self-awareness of alcohol's effects. Seventy-one students were randomly assigned to (a) alcohol education via computer-assisted instruction (CAI), (b) alcohol education via traditional written materials, or (c) a placebo/control. Results indicated that the CAI and written materials were about equally effective in improving subjects' attitudes toward alcohol although the computer program was rated most interesting.

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