King's Associate Professor Dr. Laura Béres and students travel to London and Huddersfield, England
Story by Nicole Bullock
King’s Social Work Associate Professor, Dr. Laura Béres, along with three Master of Social Work students traveled to England from April 16th to April 27th to collaborate and build connections with the University of Huddersfield and Leeds Trinity University. Béres, along with students, Jenn Lester, Andrea Madsen, and Leanna Zeyl, attended meetings with social work academics to talk about differences in social work in England and Canada, and provided post-qualifying training in narrative practice for trauma to social workers, counsellors and nurse practitioners. Béres remained in England until May 5th and also provided a presentation regarding the Centres and interdisciplinary research at King’s.
Dr. Laura Béres’ research interests’ include narrative therapy and strength based practice, spirituality and mindfulness, critical reflection of practice, and transnational social work. Béres’ most recent book, The Narrative Practitioner, was published by Palgrave Macmillan UK and was released in the summer of 2014.
The MSW students who traveled with Béres have been inspired by the possibilities that arise for people when working from a narrative therapy perspective. Due to their interest in learning more about narrative practices, they were excited by the experiential learning opportunity and the chance to see the enthusiastic manner in which practitioners in England are also drawn to narrative practices. They spent time meeting Dr. Béres’ social work colleagues in the UK, providing support as Teaching Assistants during the narrative practice training, as well as each collecting information for the completion of papers regarding social work in a transnational context.
“It was a joy to travel with three mature and committed students – they embodied both curiosity and respect as they engaged with my colleagues and the people they met as they traveled,” says Dr. Béres.
The ultimate goal of the independent studies the students are pursuing with Béres is to each complete a paper regarding their own specific areas of interest in social work and narrative practices; which would then lead to combining the papers and reflections and creating one published co-authored paper about the process of learning about social work and narrative practices transnationally.
The travellers landed in London, England on Thursday, April 16th. Their first planned event involved a meeting with Prof. Anna Gupta, a faculty member at Royal Holloway University of London’s Social Work department. Béres, her students, and Gupta spoke about social work in England and Canada, particularly focussing on similarities and differences in child protection and foster to adopt programs. Dr. Béres and her students then travelled to Huddersfield and met with Dr. Nigel Parton from the University of Huddersfield’s Social Work program to, again, discuss differences and similarities between social work in Canada and England, and to discuss Parton’s extensive experience in social work academia in the UK. Following that meeting a round table discussion, with tea and cakes, was arranged, involving the University of Huddersfield’s entire Social Work faculty as well as the Dean of Human and Health Sciences, Prof. Paul Playle.
The King’s group provided a full day of training on April 22nd at the University of Huddersfield to 70 nurse practitioners, counsellors, and social workers regarding narrative therapy and its application for individuals recovering from trauma. Béres’ training was so well-received it has led her to be invited, along with another couple of MSW students, to provide two days of training next year.
After the training wrapped up, the team met with Dr. Jan Fook, an international expert in Critical Reflection of Practice, who has recently taken up a position at Leeds Trinity University.
The team met for a final round table discussion at the University of Huddersfield on April 23rd. The organizers of the Master Class series (of which the narrative therapy training was the final event of the academic year) invited local practising social workers to attend and meet with Béres and her students, primarily so that the MSW students could talk with social workers about their experiences of working in direct practice in England.
Dr. Béres remained in England and met with Vice Chancellor Margaret House and other colleagues of Leeds Trinity University on Monday April 27th before returning to Canada. The purpose of the meeting was to further relationships in association with a Memorandum of Understanding that has been signed between Leeds Trinity and King’s University College. Béres was also asked to make a presentation regarding Interdisciplinary research in Catholic Universities. She provided information about the Centres at King’s and also presented some of her own interdisciplinary research interests.
Narrative therapy is a counselling and community practice approach that was developed by social workers Michael White and David Epston in the late 1980s. It is considered a strength-based and anti-oppressive practice that focuses on the social construction of people’s identity through the stories they tell about themselves. It suggests that there are many more events in people’s lives than those problematic events that lead them to commence counselling. Narrative therapy has introduced conversational strategies for assisting people to move from problem saturated stories of themselves towards preferred stories based on previously ignored or minimized events in their lives. It also focuses on assisting people to become more clear and articulate about their values, hopes, and preferences so they are better able to move toward those preferred ways of being.
For more information on the School of Social Work at King’s please visit: http://www.kings.uwo.ca/academics/school-of-social-work/
Contact information: Dr. Laura Béres
Telephone: 519-433-3491 Ex: 4575
Facebook: Social Work at King’s https://www.facebook.com/KUCSocialWork