Promoting therapeutic and relationship-based approaches in social work

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GAPS National Conference 2018

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Social Work at the Edge

Our conference theme this year brings into view social work’s wide reach, both in terms of its focus and its methods.  At the edge of its professional boundaries, social work can be pioneering, reaching out beyond its – and society’s – comfort zone, often into realms that are hidden and unspoken, where it may meet other disciplines or may encounter professionally uncharted, uncertain territory, where our accumulated ‘practice wisdom’ may be our surest guide.   We are also taken to the edge of our ability to feel with and for the people with whom we work, who are often themselves marginalised, rejected or ‘Othered’, living at the edge of society in a multitude of ways.

Everyday social work means living at the edge, whether that means difficult conversations, working in the evenings, meeting, or not meeting deadlines, looking after ourselves or losing sight of ourselves.  As Social Workers, we can feel pushed to the edge of endurance, of what we can bear to feel and to know; at the edge of what we have to give in the context of depleted resources, while balancing our professional and ethical conscience with that of the bureaucratic and target driven roles.

This conference engages with these complex issues through the work of our two keynote speakers; Jane Lindsay and Sasha Roseneil.  In addition to the keynote presentations, there will be generous time for group discussion, a stimulating participatory theatre element led by Sociodramatist Valerie Monti Holland, and a delicious hot meal.   We aim to make the day nourishing and re-energising for all participants.

Last year participants told us they appreciated:

•      “being part of a community of like-minded practitioners”

•      “time and space for self-care, feeling valued and a lovely lunch!”

•      “the opportunity to reflect on relationships in social work and my relationship with social work”

Sasha Roseneil is Professor of Interdisciplinary Social Science and Dean of the Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences at UCL. She practices as a group analyst and individual psychotherapist in central London.

As a sociologist Sasha is interested in how gender, sexuality, subjectivity and intimate life are changing, and in the role that social movements and collective action play in bringing about social, cultural and political change. She is also concerned with the question of how and why gender, sexuality, subjectivity and intimate life don’t change – with individual and collective resistance to change, and how we so often unconsciously resist change and sabotage what might be good and fruitful in our lives.

Her early work focused on Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp.  More recently she has explored the politics and practices of intimacy and personal life, paying attention to those living outside conventional couples and families.  Running through this research has also been a concern with the experiences of members of marginalized and racialized groups, first and second generation migrants and diasporic communities.

Through her research Sasha has contributed to debates about care, citizenship and the changing meanings of “family”, and to understandings of the difference that social movements make in the world. Engaging with sociological theories of individualisation, with feminism, queer theory and psychoanalysis, she has been developing a psychosocioanalytic approach to the complex relational dynamics and psychic and intersubjective experience of contemporary intimate life. She is particularly interested in the role that law, policy and culture play in the normative construction of personal life.

Jane Lindsay is Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching in the joint faculty of Health, Social Care and Education of Kingston University and St George’s University of London.  She qualified in social work in 1982 in England and then returned to Northern Ireland to work as a probation officer, both in the community and in prison. She then worked for two years as a VSO volunteer in Uganda with TASO (The AIDS (HIV) Support Organisation).  (The social work department at Kingston subsequently established a partnership with TASO and TASO has offered many Kingston Masters students short placements.)   After gaining another degree, she joined Kingston University as a joint appointment with the probation service. She continued to work both for Kingston and St George’s and to practise in probation, focussing latterly in working on domestic abuse programmes. She retired from probation and continues in a full time role with the universities.

How we practise social work in contexts of political conflict and strife has intrigued her since her early career experiences in Northern Ireland working in deeply divided communities and with political prisoners. Working in Uganda, in a then recently post-conflict situation, developed this interest.  In 1997 she took on a role as an independent evaluator of projects for children in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (West Bank and Gaza) funded by the National Lotteries. She continued in this role for 12 years on a sequence of projects.   While undertaking this work, she collaborated with social work colleagues working in Palestine, Israel and Northern Ireland to explore more fully some of the challenges for social workers working in divided societies and political conflict and how we can prepare social workers for taking on practice in such contexts

Valerie Monti Holland is a sociodramatist whose own narrative began in Philadelphia as an actor, director and facilitator. Her passion for devising theatre with groups led her to an MA in Applied Theatre at the University of Manchester , a diploma in Sociodrama and Action Methods and a career using creative techniques in prisons, schools and organizations across the public, private and voluntary sectors. She uses sociodrama and action methods  and Forum Theatre as  ways of delivering training, facilitation, community engagement and research primarily in the areas of Criminal Justice, Public Health and Regeneration both in the UK and across Europe and the world. Valerie works in partnership with a number of different individuals and organisations including the Cleaver Company International (Boston, USA) and Sheffield Hallam University.