The Social Work Division at Brunel was delighted to host a one day conference on 11 October 2019 titled Flesh, Bones and Blood of Social Work Practice. The day included a series of lecturers from leading social work practitioners and academic researchers exploring the connection between social work and the human body.
The day was opened with a lecture by Holli Rubin, a social worker, a psychotherapist, body image specialist and mental health practitioner who spoke about body image and the links between body image and well-being. Holli participated in several national level policy designs on these issues. You can access Holli’s slides here.
Mark Reitema works as a trainee psychotherapist, social worker, somatic practitioner and dance and movement teacher. His session explored issues around 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, Mark explored the theme of Embodiment, its definitions, lived experience and relevance in social work practice. Mark presented a few case examples illustrating how bringing awareness to our own and our services user’s body can help us as social workers to deepen our dialogue and interactions. Mark guided the audience in several movement and dancing exercises that energized us and allowed experiencing some of the ideas discussed.
The last lecture before the lunch break was delivered by Dr. Sweta Rajan-Rankin and Dr. Bridget Ng’andu from the Department of Social Work at the University of Kent. They presented their work on the voluntary organization, Social Workers Without Borders, and provided an analysis of the place of the physical body and its characteristics plays in defining those who are seen as ‘others’ – asylum seekers and refugees, particularly of BME backgrounds. The othering of such ‘alien’ bodies then justifies keeping them behind ‘our’ borders. They also analyzed the embodied experience of the social workers volunteering as part of this organization which requires them on some occasions to put their own bodies on the line. Sweta and Bridget reminded us the connection between bodies and social justice or, its lack of. You can watch their presentation here.
After Lunch we heard a lively presentation from Rebekah Pierre, a senior social worker in Hammersmith and Fulham children’s services, about a unique approach she developed to working with children called Gymtherapy. You can watch Rebekah’s presentation here.
The day ended with a yoga session led by Swati Pande, a social worker, child protection trainer and consultant, who shared with us her own individual journey into yoga and the ways in which her yoga and social work practice enrich and support each other. You can access Swati’s slides here.
Dr. Yohai Hakak
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