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The Flesh, Bones and Blood of Social Work Practice


Acknowledging & Including Practitioners and Service Users’ Bodies


9:30 – 9:45: Coffee and Registration
9:45-10:00: Dr. Yohai Hakak and Prof. Holly Nelson-Becker
Greetings and introductions:
10:00 – 10:40: Holli Rubin
Body Image: How we feel about ourselves physically impacts us emotionally    
10:40 – 11:30: Mark Rietema
Embodiment and Communication in Social Work and related practices
11:30 – 11:45: Coffee break
11:45 – 12:30: Dr Bridget Ng’andu and Dr Sweta Rajan-Rankin (University of Kent)
Alien bodies and hostile environments: Monsterizing, asylum seeking and Social Work Without Borders (SWWB)
12:30 – 13:30: lunch break
13:30-14:10: Rebekah Pierre
Gymtherapy - 3D Social work; An exploration of movement as a vehicle to increase physical, emotional and mental wellbeing in children.
14:10 – 15:30 Swati Pande
Just Being
15:30: Conclusions

The event is free but registration is required.


Body Image: How we feel about ourselves physically impacts us emotionally
Holli Rubin

Holli RubinWhat is body image? Why is it important? How does it affect us? And how does it impact our relationships with others?
Holli Rubin will be talking to you about how the concept of Body Image forms and the developmental changes that impact Body Image. She will also look at the ways Body Image is influenced, how issues present and how we can recognise the warning signs that one might be entering more dangerous psychological territory. The talk will address the prevalence and the impact Body Image has on us all.
Holli Rubin is a social worker, a psychotherapist, body image specialist and mental health practitioner based in London. Her contribution to the conversation on body image is wide-ranging, actively advising government organizations, activist groups, public forums, print, radio, and television media outlets. Holli supports national campaigns on body image and belongs to the following professional organizations: The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), United Kingdom Association for Psychotherapy Integration (UKAPI), The British Psychological Society (BPS), The Association for Humanistic Psychology Practitioners (AHPP) and The National Association of Social Workers (NASW). Holli also runs her own private therapy practice and regularly delivers talks on body image, mental health, fertility, pregnancy, and general family and parenting topics. Raising awareness on body image and providing a platform for girls to begin to understand their relationship with their own bodies and to ultimately live comfortably in them, is a goal Holli works tirelessly towards. Her insight and experience are helping drive change at a national level so that body image education becomes part of a bigger conversation.

Embodiment and Communication in Social Work and related practices
Mark Rietema

Mark RietemaWe will look at the concept of Embodiment and Embodied Relating as a way of bringing the body back into a relational space between social worker and service users. Drawing from somatic practices, such as Body-Mind Centering and embodied psychotherapy I want to explore the theme of Embodiment, its definitions, lived experience and relevance in social work practice. How might bringing awareness to our own and our services user’s body help us to deepen our dialogue and interactions? And how does this relate to theories around open dialogue, development the self, neurology and non-verbal communication? I’m hoping to intermix theory, with examples from my own social work practice alongside some brief experiential exercises to explore this theme.
Mark Rietema works as a trainee psychotherapist (Process Oriented Psychology), registered social worker (since 2003), Somatic Practitioner (Body-Mind Centering) and dance and movement teacher in the UK and internationally. He holds a BA/Dip in Social Work and an MA in Community Arts. He has a background in improvisation, dance and theatre performances (UK & USA) and devising participatory video projects in community settings. He is specifically interested in the intersection of Activism, Embodiment and the Mind. Originally from Germany he lives and works in London.

Alien bodies and hostile environments: Monsterizing, asylum seeking and Social Work Without Borders (SWWB)
Dr Bridget Ng’andu and Dr Sweta Rajan-Rankin (University of Kent)

In this lecture we will explore the intersectional politics of bordering and racialisation in relation to public policy discourses around asylum seekers and refugees in the UK. Following the introduction of hostile environment policies, ‘harder borders’ and ‘tougher’ immigration controls, questions about the asylum seekers as alien bodies have taken prominence. Populist narratives in the media have portrayed asylum seekers using ‘monsterizing practices’ by which bodies marked by difference must be expatiated (Deleuze, 1994:29). Simultaneously everyday bordering practices exert a form of governmentality and social control through which diversity is managed within and outside white nation (Yuval-Davies et al, 2018). Bodies are central to this analysis, not only in relation to which bodies are rendered im/mobile but also how thresholds for needs are met (for example age-testing). Using the case of the international alliance Social Work Without Borders (SWWB), we seek to highlight the politics of bordering and belonging in relation to asylum seekers and refugees. The potential for and obstacles to social work intervention is also elucidated in relation to being agents of the state (and therefore border-agents) and agents of social change.

Dr Bridget Ng’anduDr Bridget Ng’andu is a Lecturer in Social Work at the School of Social Policy Sociology and Social Research, University of Kent, UK. Her research focuses on migration, specifically factors affecting asylum seekers and refugees in the United Kingdom. Her current research explores social work practitioners’ experiences of border work through volunteering with Social Workers Without Borders in the UK. She has published work on race, whiteness and activism in social work. She is a member of the Migration Ethnicity Race and Belonging Cluster at the University of Kent.


Dr Sweta Rajan-RankinDr Sweta Rajan-Rankin is Senior Lecturer at the School of Social Policy Sociology and Social Research, University of Kent, UK. Her research focuses on the entanglements between race and racism, affect, embodiment, materiality and everyday life using feminist and new materialist approaches. She has published articles on anti-racist social work, racialisation and transnational service work and race embodiment and later life in journals such as British Journal of Social Work, Gender Work and Organization and Journal of Aging Studies. She is the Director of the Migration Ethnicity Race and Belonging Cluster at the University of Kent, co-convenor of the British Sociological Association (BSA) Race and Ethnicity Study Group and serves on the editorial board of the Sociological Review journal.

Gymtherapy - 3D Social work: An exploration of movement as a vehicle to increase physical, emotional and mental wellbeing in children
Rebekah Pierre

Rebekah PierreAs professionals navigating the complexities of child and family social work, the term 'holistic assessments' is bound to be familiar. When understanding the lived experience of the child, however, practitioners often overlook the significance of the embodied self; this is startling, especially when considering that the body is the prism through which we experience the world. This presentation explores how professionals can use the body as a powerful tool to increase resilience and wellbeing in children, by exploring the benefits of physical literacy (the life-long affinity to exercise), and how to incorporate creative movement into direct work. In addition, the concept of protective behaviours will be explored, with a focus on the physiology of trauma, encouraging children to respond to evolutionary symptoms of distress, and education around physical boundaries.
Rebekah Pierre is the author of 'Gymtherapy: Developing Emotional Wellbeing and Resilience in Children through the Medium of Movement', and a senior social worker based in London. Rebekah is also a guest lecturer at the University of Hull, in the area of social enterprise in social care contexts. A music graduate, dancer and linguist, Rebekah is passionate about using a variety of artistic disciplines to approach social-emotional issues from a creative angle. Rebekah has worked as a choreographer, musician and educator in the UK, Canada, Spain and Chile – experiences which bring cultural diversity to the forefront of her work.

Just Being
Swati Pande

Swati PandeOne of biggest issues for survivors of abuse, especially sexual abuse, and for those working with them is the engagement with the ‘why’. Survivors often ask themselves ‘why did it happen to me’. We carry this unanswered ‘why’ with us. In my own journey, the strong adult was seeking an academic answer to this ‘why’ and wanted to explain it to the inner child by giving them knowledge…all the knowledge there is about abuse. I surrounded myself with complex research, case work, academia and my PhD was going to answer everything and we would all be happy. If I read all there is to read about abuse, if I got a doctorate in it, everything would fit into a nice neat package and I could finally move on. Eighteen months into my PhD I fell critically ill with a disease, that had no known cause or cure. Thus, adding yet another ‘why’ to the equation.
This session is based on my journey to social work, out of high dependency unit, to the yoga mat, and experiences in letting go of the biggest unanswerable questions in practice and life.
We will do some basic postural yoga in this session, please wear clothes that allow you to move comfortably.
Swati Pande is a social worker, child protection trainer and consultant, she has spread the word in a range of places from Tirana to Tblisi and added colour to many monochrome strategic decision-making spaces. These days she is the manager of Child Trafficking Advice Centre, a specialist multi agency anti child trafficking service hosted by the NSPCC.
Away from her desk, Swati is a practice educator, yoga doer and teacher, Indian philosophy geek, grower of potted plants and occasional gin drinker. She considers herself a feminist practitioner. Swati is especially interested in intersectionality, construction of victimhood, critical discourse analysis of sexual violence in non-English speaking communities and the western world’s engagement with Yoga.

Dr. Yohai Hakak, Senior Lecturer In Social Work
+44 (0) 1895 265844