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Professor Holly Nelson-Becker

Professor Holly Nelson-Becker
Divisional Lead/Professor - Social Work


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


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


·         Fellow, Gerontological Society 2013

·         University of Kansas Statland Award for Excellence in Research and Scholarship

·         Outstanding Faculty Member – KU MSW Mutual Aid Society

·         University of Kansas Chancellor Budig Award for Excellence in Teaching


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

Newest selected publications

Nelson-becker, H. and Sangster, K. (2019) 'Recapturing the Power of Ritual to Enhance Community in Aging'. Journal of Religion, Spirituality and Aging, 31 (2). pp. 153 - 167. ISSN: 1050-2289 Open Access Link

Journal article

Marton, B., Kilbane, T. and Nelson-becker, H. (2019) 'Exploring the Loss and Disenfranchised Grief of Animal Care Workers'. Death Studies. pp. 1 - 11. ISSN: 0748-1187 Open Access Link

Journal article

Nelson-becker, H. and Gesicki, P. (2017) 'Remission from Depression in the DSM: Moving from Rhetoric to Restoration'. Clinical Social Work Journal, 46 (3). pp. 220 - 227. ISSN: 0091-1674 Open Access Link

Journal article

Nelson-Becker, H. (2017) 'Spirituality, Religion, and Aging Illuminations for Therapeutic Practice'. SAGE Publications. ISSN 10: 148331524X ISSN 13: 9781483315249


Nelson-becker, H. (2016) 'Spirituality and older women: The journey home to self', in Kilbane, T. (ed.) Older women: Current and future challenges of professionals with an aging population.. Bentham Press.

Book chapter
More publications(41)