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 Director of Programmes – Mental Health (Post-reg & CPD) and Senior 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

Dr. Melissa Bird is a descendant of the Shivwits Band of Paiutes. She is a nationally recognized lay preacher, author, life coach, and podcaster. Dr. Bird has made hundreds of keynote speeches and workshops before audiences at universities, conferences, and religious institutions worldwide. Her combination of education, real life experience and practical advice makes her a powerful force of change in the lives of the people she connects with. Past audience members have described her speaking as “fierce,” “revelatory,” “life-changing,” “enthusiastic,” and “inspirational.”

Dr. Bird creates the genesis for a new brand of leadership and graceful revolution. She inspires personal understanding through contemplation, helps people use their intuition to change their lives and communities, and encourages the healing of grief and loss through spiritual connection. Her words awaken revolutionaries, trailblazers and powerful innovators who are seeking deeper connection and expansive growth. She is the host of The Thinnest Veil podcast and the author of SAGE Guide to Social Work Careers Your Journey to Advocacy and the co-author of the best selling book Women Connected in Wisdom – stories and resources rooted in the 8 dimensions of wellness.

When she’s not working, she can be found reading trashy novels while drinking Earl Gray tea with heavy cream. She lives in Corvallis, Oregon with her husband, three children, two dogs and one three legged cat.

Awaken your own graceful revolution and connect with Dr. Bird at www.drmelissabird.com and on Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram @birdgirl1001. Find her on LinkedIn.