School of Social and Political Science

Sarah Golightley

Job Title

Provisional PhD title: Therapeutic Boarding Schools in the USA: Narratives of Former Students 


PhD topic

My PhD research aims to gain insight into the experiences, perspectives, and narratives of former therapeutic boarding school students. Therapeutic boarding schools are residential facilitates for teenagers in the USA who are considered to have had mental health or substance misuse problems. The main aspect of the research is in-depth interviews with former therapeutic boarding school students. Findings will contribute to improving social work practice and informing social policy. If you are interested in finding out more about the research, please see the project website: Therapeutic Boardings Schools Research Study.

PhD supervisors

Dr Autumn Roesch-Marsh and Dr Sumeet Jain


Peer reviewed articles

Golightley, S. (2020) Troubling the ‘troubled teen’ industry: Adult reflections on youth experiences of therapeutic boarding schools. Global Studies of Childhood 10(1): 53-63.

Golightley, S. (2019) It’s Maddening: Re-Conceptualizing Embodiments of Mental and Physical Distress. Journal of Ethics in Mental Health, Special Issue VI, Disordering Social Inclusion: Ethics, Critiques, Collaborations, Futurities edited by Jijian Voronka and Lucy Costa.

Book chapters

Golightley, S. (2020) ‘Ableism and Social Work Education in England and Scotland’, in Mackay, F., Menon, K., Govinda, R., and Sen, R. (eds.) Doing Feminisms in the Academy: Identity, Institutional Pedagogy and Critical Classrooms in India and theUK. New Delhi: Zubaan, pp. 339-348.

Tosh, J. and Golightley, S. (2016) 'The Caring Professions, Not So Caring?: An Analysis of Bullying and Emotional Distress in the Academy', in Burstow, B. (eds.) Psychiatry Interrogated: An Institutional Ethnography. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 143-160.


Billsborough, J., Currie, R., Gibson, S., Gillard, S., Golightley, S., Kotecha-Hazzard, R., Mesaric, A., Mohammed, S., Pinfold, V., Sweet, D., Thompson, R. and White, S. (2017) Evaluating the Side by Side peer support programme. London: St George's University of London, The McPin Foundation and the London School of Economics.

Magazine/newspaper articles

Golightley, S. (2016) 'Disabling Madness: Disrupting the mind-body divide', Asylum Magazine: The Magazine for a Democratic Psychiatry, Special Issue: Mad Studies Comes of Age (Part 1), 23(4), PCCS Books, Winter 2016.

Golightley, S. (2014) 'Demand homes not jails: queer homelessness is being criminalized', openDemocracy, 19 March.

Golightley, S. (2014) 'Why Campaign for LGBTQ Divorce?', The Occupied Times of London (now called Base), 25 March.

Creative writing/poetry

Golightley, S. (2017) 'dlrow' & 'CV Template, Disability 2.0', in Alland, S., Barokka, K. & Sluman, D. (eds.) Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back. Rugby, UK: Nine Arches Press, pp. 77-81.

Guest lectures/seminars

November 2020- 'LGBTQI+ Inclusive Social Work Practice', for the course 'Working with Self and Others'. Undergraduate course, University of Edinburgh.

October 2020- 'Facing the Barriers: LGBTQI+ People's Access to Social Care Services', for the course 'Social Work in Communities'. UG & PG course, University of Edinburgh.

April 2020- ‘Mad Studies and Service User / Survivor Led Research', for the course ‘Critical Perspectives on Mental Health and Well-being in the Global South’. Masters course, University of Edinburgh.

March 2019- ‘Mad Studies and Service User / Survivor Led Research', for the course ‘Culture and Mental Health in a Global Perspective’. Masters course, University of Edinburgh.

March 2019- 'Disability and Feminism in a Global Context', for the course 'Gender, Marginality and Social Change'. Undergraduate course, University of Edinburgh.

February 2019- 'Disability, Mental Health and LGBT+ People', for the course 'Health, Ethics and Society'. Undergraduate MBChB medical course, University of Edinburgh.

March 2018- 'Social Work with LGBT+ People', for the course 'From Research into Practice: Landmarks in Social Work Research'. Undergraduate course, University of Edinburgh.

Select conference presentations and panels

''Conversion Therapy Light': LGBTQ+ Youth and Therapeutic Boarding Schools in the USA', Sexuality and Social Work Conference. [Online] Mumbai, India, November 2020, Tata Institute of Social Science.

'Ethics of Patient Inclusion' Roundtable Discussion, Disordering Social Inclusion: Ethics, Critiques, Collaborations, Futurities. Toronto, Canada, 13 November 2019, Joint Centre for Bioethics and Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto.

‘Ableism and Social Work Education in England and Scotland’, Towards Epistemic Alliances. Edinburgh, UK, 2 July 2019, University of Edinburgh.

'Doing Intersectionality in Social Research' Roundtable Discussion, New Directions: Storying Sociology. Edinburgh, UK, 19 April 2019, University of Edinburgh.

Ableism in the Curriculum Roundtable Discussion, Critical Interventions in Higher Education Series. London, UK, 16 February 2018, University of Westminster.

 'Disabling Madness: Disrupting Mind-Body Dichotomies', Disability Studies Conference. Lancaster, UK, 8 September 2016, University of Lancaster.

'Transforming Survival - Transgender People’s Access to Domestic Violence Refuges', Transgender Europe Conference. Budapest, Hungary, 3 May 2014, TGEU.

Press coverage

'Canadians Faced Shocking Abuse at US Troubled Teen Boarding Schools ' by Samantha Beattie, Huffington Post Canada, 22 November 2020.


Spring 2019 & Spring 2020- Creative Social Work and the Arts
Spring 2018- From Research into Practice: Landmarks in Social Work Research


2017- MScR Social Work - Distinction, University of Edinburgh
2013- MA Social Work - Distinction, University of Sussex
2009- BA Sociology (Minor Psychology)- McGill University


2016- 2021 Economic Social Research Council Studentship, Scottish Graduate School of Social Sciences

Professional registration

Social Worker, Scottish Social Services Council

Additional research and training

2020-2021- Royal Society of Edinburgh and Scottish Graduate School of Social Sciences Mentorship Scheme.

2019- International Visiting Research Traineeship based in Critical Disability Studies, Department of Graduate Studies at York University, Toronto, Canada. Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Social Workers' Educational Trust.

2017- 2019- Teaching Feminisms, Transforming Lives: Questions of Identity, Pedagogy and Violence in India and the UK -- a collaboration of feminist academics from the University of Edinburgh and Ambedkar University Delhi. Funded by the UK-India Educational Research Initiative.

Academic profiles

* Please note that I am currently a PhD student so I am NOT able to supervise other PhD students.

Research interests

Research interests

Mad Studies, Anti-Oppressive Social Work Practice, Social Policy, Domestic Abuse, Feminism, Intersectionality, Peer research, Peer Support, Homelessness, Disability Studies, Queer Studies, Trans Studies, Qualitative Research Methods, Critical Pedagogy, Service User Research, Global Mental Health

Works within