NASW Member Services (800) 742-4089

2024 Plenary Speakers

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

9:30 am – 11:30 am | Welcome & Plenary I

Rachel Bernstein, LMFT, MSEd

Cult Specialist- Educator – Speaker – Host of IndoctriNATION Podcast

Why Fear Makes Us Say “Yes” When We Should Have Said “No”

A fundamental principle in the modern self-help movement and the drive of many life coaches and counselors is to push people to say “yes” in order to have them embrace opportunities, to step out of their comfort zone, and to foster personal growth. While these are important goals, when they are pushed for across the board with everyone in equal measure, they are more aligned with toxic positivity than good judgment, and people may find themselves committing to and staying in situations that ultimately are not wise for them. Because I work with people who have been in cults, people in controlling and manipulative relationships and workplaces, and people who are being spiritually and emotionally abused, I often work with people who had the ability and freedom to say “no” taken away and they want and need to get it back. What is it about fear that makes us say “yes” when we know we should have/wanted to/truly needed to say “no”? What is inherently wrong with a situation that would cause people to intuit that it would not be safe for them to say “no” to the people there?

This presentation will also cover why people find themselves staying in unhealthy groups, relationships, and environments long after they have sensed inherent problems and dangers.

There are many reasons that stop people from standing up for themselves and being honest about how they really feel and what change they know they need to make. We’ll go over many of those reasons and will also delve into what can help people develop the courage and clarity to say “no” when they see that it is the safest and smartest answer.

Rachel Bernstein is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist from Los Angeles, California who has specialized in cult intervention and re-acclimation for over 30 years. Rachel serves on the advisory board of the International Cultic Studies Association and has worked with the Department of Justice providing support to cult survivors. She is a passionate educator and compassionate therapist with a journey rooted in understanding the need for connection and purpose, and how to set people on a road to recovery from trauma, and help them regain their power after it’s been stripped away.

Beginning at Boston University’s School of Education in 1987, Rachel’s enthusiasm for teaching took root as she earned her Bachelor of Science and teaching credentials. Her journey continued at USC’s Rossier School of Education, where she cultivated her expertise with a Master of Science in Education (MSEd) and a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (MMFT) in 1989.

From 1989 to 1993, Rachel embarked on a unique path, embracing roles as a Special Education Teacher and Family Therapy Intern at Vista Del Mar, Los Angeles, developing support groups for the siblings of those with special needs, and support groups for those who became ensnared in controlling and damaging relationships. In 1991, Rachel achieved licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist.

From Los Angeles to Manhattan and back to Los Angeles, Rachel’s journey started by encompassing diverse roles and working with a unique population at the Cult Clinic. With an unwavering focus on recovery, she supported former cult members and their families, all while creating avenues for education and prevention. She ran the Speakers Bureau there, training former victims to go out and tell their stories. In New York, she was the clinician at the Cult Hotline and Clinic, providing counseling, a support group for former cult members, support groups for the families of those in cuts and dangerously manipulative relationships, and she was approached by media outlets, from news channels and newspapers, to educate the public about this issue. Her dedication to the community rippled beyond therapy as she also lent her heart and time to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Settling back in Los Angeles in 2001, Rachel’s private practice evolved into a haven of healing. She embraces general clients while providing a lifeline for former cult members and their loved ones. Her support groups, like beacons of resilience, aid those recovering from narcissistic relationships and the clutches of cults.

Rachel has made many media appearances over the years as a cult expert on Netflix, Discovery+, Newsnation, Hulu, Stars, CNN, MSNBC, BBC, NPR, Bloomberg, and many other major news outlets. Ms. Bernstein is the host of IndoctriNATION: A weekly podcast covering cults, manipulators, and protecting yourself from systems of control where she has interviewed hundreds of cult survivors, journalists, and experts.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

1:30 pm – 3:00 pm | Plenary II

Epiphany “Big Piph” Morrow

Flipping Fear & Failure

We all have fears and have come up short on occasion. Who said they can’t be used to our advantage? Epiphany “Big Piph” Morrow will present a dynamic session on the benefits he’s gained from reframing his fears and failures. Through a relatable, often time humorous talk, he will offer pragmatic takeaways. For the latter half of the session, attendees will be guided through informing a creative piece of their own related to the themes and discussion. At the end of the session, attendees will be encouraged to share their original piece or other works.

Epiphany “Big Piph” Morrow is a Stanford-educated engineer who decided rapping was a better career choice. He’s currently rolling out new music for the “FAR FROM FINISHED” soundtrack and performs regularly with his seven-piece band, Tomorrow Maybe.

This community builder from Pine Bluff, Arkansas is a noted speaker and creator of The F.A.M. Project empowering high school students in underserved communities. Most notably, he serves as Cultural Ambassador where he builds through Hip Hop. Thus far, he’s worked in over 10 countries including e Morocco, Algeria, The Gambia, Seychelles, Myanmar, Thailand, Ghana and more.

After creating his one-man show entitled “The Glow”, described as if “TED Talks were a Hip-Hop concert wrapped in an OG Spike Lee narrative”, it was transformed into a current digital series with PBS. He is in the process of releasing his new creative endeavor, Far From Finished, which is a web series and soundtrack.

2024 Social Work Advocates’ Dinner

Elevate Your Power, Amplify Your Voice

Join us for dinner and a compelling talk through the art of powerful storytelling. These speakers’ stories contribute to inclusion and connection, build confidence, and bring about change.

Our Journey from Victims to Survivors by Vicky Williams

In 1999, I was 39 years old living in Carrollton, Texas with my three children Valerie, Vanessa, and DJ, and my now ex-husband David. My husband and I were together for 19 years. On September 11, 1999 my domestic violence situation had escalated to what I knew that day was a life or death decision. We knew we were going to leave everything we had and everyone we knew in order to have a chance at a new life. That day we went to a shelter in Dallas. Two weeks after we arrived, we learned David had shot someone and was a fugitive. It was too dangerous to remain in Texas. By God’s grace, he guided my son’s finger on a map to Little Rock and that is where we started over with the faith we had that God has got us and with the help of what is now known as Woman & Children First. I am now a survivor with a purpose to educate families in crisis on their choices.

Criminal and Restorative Justice by Ruby Welch

Ruby Welch is a motivational speaker, Criminal and Restorative Justice Advocate, Healing Hostess and Founder of F.E.L.O.N (Formerly Incarcerated Empowered Leaders Overcoming Negative Stigmas). After experiencing first-hand the harmful effects of serving seven years in the Arkansas Department of Correction, Ruby vowed to educate her community about the disparities of incarceration and its lasting effects on individuals.

Harm Reduction Efforts in Arkansas by Brittany Kelly

Brittany Kelly will lead a thought-provoking discussion on the impending challenges in harm reduction efforts. Through storytelling and advocacy, she will shed light on the anticipated stigma, political barriers, resource constraints, and healthcare access limitations that will likely impede progress in this critical field. Her presentation will underscore the pressing need for collective action to preemptively address these obstacles and ensure equitable support for individuals grappling with substance use. By fostering dialogue and mobilizing advocacy, Brittany’s forthcoming lecture will aim to inspire attendees to proactively confront these challenges and drive positive change in their communities.


If you are not attending the conference, but wish to purchase tickets to the Social Work Advocates’ Dinner, you may do so here.

2024 NASW Arkansas Annual Awards Luncheon

Friday, March 15, 2024 | 12:00 – 2:30 pm

Join us in honoring leaders in the profession and community who fully embody social work values and in celebrating Social Work Month! We are proud to honor the following outstanding leaders!

If you are not attending the conference, but wish to purchase tickets to the 2024 Annual Awards Luncheon, you may do so here.

2024 NASW Arkansas Annual Award Winners!

Join us in honoring leaders in the profession and community who fully embody social work values.

Click on the images below to read their outstanding nomintations!

Steven Jennings, LMSW, AADC

Social Worker of the Year

Teri Ann Bearden

MSW Student of the Year

Keleigh Adams

BSW Student of the Year

Cocoon Collective

Agency of the Year

Chief Mike Reynolds

Citizen of the Year

LaTisha Brunson

Elected Official of the Year

Greg Adams, LCSW, ACSW, FT

Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

Student Poster Presentations

Join us at the 2024 NASW Conference and participate in the Student Poster Presentations and Competition! All BSW and MSW students are welcome to participate. This is a fun way to practice your presentation and networking skills in a supportive environment. This is also a good way for the social work programs around the state to highlight student accomplishments.

There will be designated times at the conference for you to present your work. The poster sessions will be held on Thursday, March 14, 2023. You will be asked to stand with your poster 2 times during the day for about 1 hour each time to discuss your poster with conference attendees as they walk through the poster session. Your poster presentation should take 8-10 minutes. 

Poster Categories 

Category 1: Innovative programs or interventions from field placement (internship) experience. Innovative is defined as new ways to address old problems. Programs or interventions may include therapeutic models, funding sources, partnerships, or other cutting-edge ideas for helping social work clients or the social work profession. 

Category 2: Public policy that is current or relevant to social work practice. Public policy poster submissions must include the following: poster defines the social policy or issue clearly; poster states the policy as it currently is and analyzes its strengths and limitations; poster identifies vulnerable and at-risk populations and specific ways in which these groups are impacted by the current policy; poster incorporates the six core values of the social work profession identified in the NASW Code of Ethics into the overall policy analysis; poster states at least five recommendations to improve current policy. These recommendations should incorporate all levels of social work practice and may include examples of how other states have addressed this same policy issue. 

Category 3: Graduate research project or practice evaluation. This should be a completed project. This may be the student’s work OR something that a student worked on with a faculty member or community practitioner. (Masters students only) 

Poster Presentation Proposal Requirements

Submit a poster presentation proposal by February 29, 2024.

You may submit a poster presentation proposal using the downloadable Student Poster Proposal Form or by completing the Google Form: Student Poster Proposal.

The proposal must include:

  • Your name and email address.
  • Whether you are a graduate or undergraduate student.
  • Presentation/Poster category (see above) and title of presentation.
  • 3 learning/educational objectives.
  • 100 word abstract of presentation.

Size of poster. Poster should be no smaller than 2×3 and no larger than 3×4. Poster should be hard backed and appropriate for display on an easel. Tri-fold poster boards are acceptable but note that a tri-fold does not display as well as a flat poster on an easel.

Benefits of Presenting

  • Opportunity to show your work to peers and professional community.
  • Opportunity to network with other social workers (students and professionals).
  • Potential recognition of high quality work in poster competition. One winner will be selected from each category, in addition to an overall BSW winner and an overall MSW winner. Winners will be announced at the conference awards ceremony on Friday.


An award will be given in each of the 3 poster categories. For categories 1 and 2, there will be an award for a BSW and MSW student or team. For category 3, there will be an award for an MSW student or team. There will also be an award for overall best poster. The awards will be presented at the awards luncheon on Friday. 

Other items of note 

  • Presentations should be creative and interesting.
  • Be prepared to discuss your poster.
  • Please put your name and the name of your school on the back of the poster.
  • You may submit proposals for team presentations. Please limit teams to 6 members or less.
  • Submit proposals by completing the Google Form or by completing the downloadable Proposal Form in Word format only and email to Holly Barron at by February 29, 2024.
  • Late submissions may not be listed in the conference program.