Sex workers deserve therapy, assessment and diagnostic services provided by psychologists who understand sex work as a form of labour, affirm sex workers’ human rights by supporting the full decriminalization of sex work and respect the self-determination of sex workers. In other words, clinicians need to believe sex workers have the capacity to manage their lives and make informed decision about their care. Huh, imagine that!
How I view sex work
I view sex work as I would any other profession under capitalism, with some important differences which are outlined below.
I recognize the stigma, discrimination and criminalization faced by sex workers and how this impacts our mental health and well-being. Too often, sex workers are toldwe are experiencing symptoms because of our involvement in sex work; a causal link is made between sex work and whatever issue is troubling us. However, symptoms might be caused by a myriad of factors such as early childhood trauma, neurodivergence, difficulties in interpersonal relationships, experiencing an important life transition (separation, divorce, family planning) or systemic issues such as whorephobia, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, racism, and ableism.
Feminism and sex work
Some feminists, usually sex worker-exclusionary radical feminists and/or trans-exclusionary radical feminists (SWERFs and/or TERFs) understand sex work to be a form of violence against women. From their perspective, all sex workers are victims of male violence. I do not share this understanding of sex work. Instead, like many sex workers’ rights activists, I believe there is a spectrum of people in the sex industry, some of whom have experienced victimization and some who haven’t.
I understand sex workers are vulnerable to violence due to systemic issues, such as the anti-sex work laws and whorephobia. I hold a systemic lens in my field with sex workers and utilize evidence-based approaches for treating mental health distress such as psychodynamic psychotherapy, attachment-based and mentalization therapies, and emotionally focused therapy. I’ve trained many mental health professionals and psychologists in this approach, including many who work at CFIR.
Sex worker diversity
I also recognize not all sex workers are women. While most sex workers are women, there are male and trans sex workers who need to seek mental health professionals that understand their reality. I am committed to understanding the breadth of sex workers’ experiences.
If you’re a sex worker seeking mental health services, do not hesitate to reach out to CFIR to schedule a free consultation with one of our counsellors, social workers, psychotherapists, or psychologists who have taken a training with me to provide culturally competent care to sex workers. CFIR offers reduced-cost services to people experiencing financial hardship. Please reach out to learn more!