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Professor Holly Nelson-Becker
Honorary Professor - Health Sciences


Holly Nelson-Becker, PhD, LCSW, ACSW, Diplomate in Clinical Social Work, holds the rank of Professor and Division Lead in the Social Work Division, Department of Clinical Sciences at Brunel University London. She is also a Visiting Scholar with Loyola University Chicago. She earned her PhD at the University of Chicago and the Master's in Social Work at Arizona State University.  She is a recognized expert in social gerontology and a Hartford Faculty Scholar in Geriatric Social Work who has investigated the pathways to resilience and well-being in older adults. She has explored spirituality, end-of-life, and diverse cultural expressions related to social care. Her research areas focus on virtues, aging, spiritual and religious coping in older adults, and interprofessional practice in palliative care. She also holds expertise in loss/grief and has investigated quality of dying.

Professor Nelson-Becker co-authored US national standards for spiritual care in palliative care and is past Chair of the Interest Group on Religion, Spirituality, and Aging for the Gerontological Society of America. She developed US gerontological social work competencies, served on the National Program Committee for the Hartford Doctoral Fellows Program in Geriatric Social Work,  and continues to mentor PhD students in various aspects of gerontology and/or spirituality and clinical practice.

She was awarded Fellowship in the Gerontological Society of America in 2013. The strengths perspective and positive psychological principles form the foundation for her research and teaching. She is author of the book, Spirituality, religion, and aging: Illuminations for therapeutic practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, published 2017. 488 pages. ISBN: 9781412981361.

Keywords: ageing, gerontology, social work, social care, end of life, palliative care, spirituality and religion, resilience and coping, loss and grief, bereavement, dying well, successful ageing, interprofessional practice, gerontological social work education


  • Ralph & Eve Seelye Charitable Trust Award Fellowship, University of Auckland, NZ, 2019
  • Best module for the College of Health and Life Sciences, 2018 & Lecturer of the Year nomination, 2018
  • Fellow, Gerontological Society 2013
  • University of Kansas Statland Award for Excellence in Research and Scholarship
  • University of Kansas Chancellor Budig Award for Excellence in Teaching & Outstanding Faculty of the Year


University of Chicago, PhD; Arizona State University, MSW; Graceland University, BA- Modern Foreign Languages & Graceland University, BA- International Studies;

Registered SW Social Work England. Licensed Clinical Social Worker-Illinois, US


Division Lead Admin, research, teaching, supervision of staff and doctoral dissertations, committees 

Newest selected publications

Nelson-Becker, H., Pickard, JG. and Sichling, F. (2023) 'Adventure and Spiritual Restoration: Older Adult Motivations for Undertaking a Pilgrimage on El Camino de Santiago'. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 66 (2). pp. 1 - 16. ISSN: 0163-4372 Open Access Link

Journal article

Reese, D., Nelson-Becker, H. and Callahan, A. (2022) 'Spirituality and Social Work Practice in Palliative Care', in Altilio, T., Otis-Green, S. and Cagle, J. (eds.) The Oxford Textbook of Palliative Social Work. 2nd ed.. New York, NY, USA : Oxford University Press. ISBN 10: 0-19-753785-5. ISBN 13: 978-0-19-753785-5. Open Access Link

Book chapter

Ansari, A., Baron, A., Nelson-Becker, H., Deamant, C., Fitchett, G., Fister, E., et al. (2021) 'Practice Improvement Projects in an Interdisciplinary Palliative Care Training Program'. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care, 39 (7). pp. 831 - 837. ISSN: 1049-9091 Open Access Link

Journal article

Anand, JC., Donnelly, S., Milne, A., Nelson-Becker, H., Vingare, E-L., Deusdad, B., et al. (2021) 'The covid-19 pandemic and care homes for older people in Europe - deaths, damage and violations of human rights'. European Journal of Social Work, 25 (5). pp. 804 - 815. ISSN: 1369-1457 Open Access Link

Journal article

Willis, P., LLoyd, L., Hammond, J., Milne, A., Nelson-Becker, H., Perry, E., et al. (2021) 'Casting light on the distinctive contribution of social work in multidisciplinary teams for older people'. British Journal of Social Work, 52 (1). pp. 480 - 497. ISSN: 0045-3102 Open Access Link

Journal article
More publications(60)