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Social work scholar Shelley Cohen Konrad authors new textbook on transformational practice with children and families

March 05, 2013

To those who know her, it isn't a surprise that the cover of Shelley Cohen Konrad's new textbook, Child and Family Practice: A Relational Perspective, is the outcome of a collaboration. 

An associate professor in UNE's School of Social Work and director of the Center for Excellence in Interprofessional Education, she is passionate about creating interactive learning opportunities.

On one particular day the learning exercise for students in Cohen Konrad's course was facilitated by visiting artist and patient rights activist Regina Holliday, who then assembled the drawings onto one canvas. The collage depicts flowers in bloom, a steep mountain summit, a boat afloat, a heart made of puzzle pieces; caring hands, a pig in flight, and a centerpiece with the word hope encased in clouds.

"When I saw the final painting I immediately knew it was the perfect cover for the book," says Cohen Konrad.  "The multi-layered, somewhat messy, yet beautiful image conveyed a story similar to the narratives told by children and families in the book. Even better, it represented the artfulness of students for whom the book is designed."

Core Concepts

The book is organized around three core concepts: relational connection, evidence-guided knowledge and reflexivity.

Cohen Konrad describes it as "an old fashioned book based on contemporary science" that suggests guidelines and principles for working with children, their families and their service-providing organizations.

Penny Tropman, A.C.S.W., Michigan State University and Midlife Renaissance, describes the book as, "An outstanding example of thorough, thoughtful content ... I am amazed at her consistent ability to tackle a complex subject, provide a brilliant summary, and illustrate key points with intriguing and relevant examples of how this knowledge should translate into good social work practice, i.e. relational practice."

Production of the book was a powerful experience for the Cohen Konrad that reflects her three decades as a clinical social worker. One case recounted in the preface involved a teenager she worked with who abruptly left home without a trace.

"I always wondered how things turned out for her. I thought I had failed her," said Cohen Konrad, who received an unexpected email many years later from this former client thanking her for believing in her and making a difference in her life.

"Building caring relationships does matter," said the author.  And much like the positive outlook depicted in the images of the students in her class, hope is at the core to success in child and family practice.

"Child and Family Practice: A Relational Perspective" is published by Lyceum Books, Inc.

About the Author

Shelley Cohen Konrad (Ph.D., Simmons College, LCSW) is associate professor of social work at the University of New England and director of the Center for Excellence in Interprofessional Education.

She is a clinical social worker specializing in work with children and families. Her publications focus on the importance of caring and relational practice with children, parents, systems, and vulnerable populations, and on teaching interprofessional competencies and relational skills to future and practicing health and mental health professionals.

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