About us

Sexuality issues in social work practice, education and research

This group of social work (and associate) academics, with practitioner, student, service user and carer allies, aims to extend and strengthen the knowledge base by:

  • Providing a friendly and safe forum for discussion and dissemination of ideas;
  •  Sharing and developing ideas for research and teaching activity;
  • Supporting and sustaining each others’ interests and endeavours;
  • Contributing to and collaborating on research projects and publications.

The group is also committed to developing international collaborations in social work.

Since its inception in June 2004, the Special Interest group has successfully raised awareness of the relevance of sexuality issues as critical to social work knowledge, and to service users and carers’ everyday lives through hosting a series of conferences events (London South Bank University (2006), Salford University (2007), Glasgow Caledonian University (2010), Nottingham Trent University (2012)) and through producing previous special issues. The group has a successful record for producing special issues for social work journals: Social Work Education (2008) and Practice: Social Work in Action (2009). The group’s membership includes social work practitioners, educators, students and service users.

Since 2013, the interest group’s membership has expanded internationally to include members from Western European nations, Middle Eastern nations, Canada, United States and Australia. Many of its members are actively leading new research and scholarship on sex and sexuality.

The group is currently co-Chaired by Alfonso Pezzella, Lecturer at Middlesex University London, United Kingdom and Dr Melissa Bird, Social Worker in the United States of America.



Alfonso Pezzella

Alfonso Pezzella is Lecturer in Mental Health at Middlesex University. Alfonso joined Middlesex University in 2012 and currently works in Department of Mental Health and Social Work within the School of Health and Education.

Alfonso teaches on a variety of topics including research methods, SPSS, mental health, LGBT issues and transcultural issues in health. Alfonso is currently working on a European project (IENE 5) led by Professor Irena Papadopoulos (Middlesex University) and five other European countries, which aims to develop a MOOC in Intercultural Communication Skills and Patient Safety. He is also working on various research projects on LGBT inclusion in the curriculum in health and social care and LGBT and mental health.

Alfonso is chair of Sexuality and the Social Work International Interest Group. The group encourages international collaborations in social work research, education and practice developments in the field of gender, sexuality, sexual identity and LGBT+ issues.

Alfonso has a professional Twitter feed @AlfPezzella where he enjoys bringing the community together and discussing topics regarding mental health, LGBT, psychology and education. You can also follow Alfonso on ResearchGate for his latest publications.

Dr Melissa Bird

As a writer, professor and fiery public speaker, Dr. Melissa Bird creates the genesis for a new brand of leadership. Her words awaken revolutionaries, trailblazers and powerful innovators in the quest for justice. When she’s not building her public speaking Empire, she can be found reading trashy novels, drinking fine whiskey, playing mom to three delicious humans, and loving her punk rock scientist James Thomas Kelly.