I have experience of working with sex workers, who make up around half of my current client base. Most of my clients have had difficult or judgemental experiences with therapists in the past. This judgment and lack of understanding and empathy creates barriers to accessing support. One of my clients told me that her friends shut down a therapists page if it says the words ‘non-judgemental‘ or ‘open-minded‘ since they had numerous experiences of counselors that said these things and then made harsh judgments about sex workers. She suggested that it would be more helpful to briefly outline my own position on sex work, so that’s what I’m doing here.
I see sex work as a particularly intense type of service work. Obviously, there is great diversity within sex work, but a common theme is the requirement to do a lot of emotional labour and to manage boundaries with clients that want to push at the edges. This emotional labour, rather than the physical act of sex, appears to be a cause of stress and burnout for many of my sex worker clients. While the work itself may range from thoroughly enjoyable to quite difficult, this is rarely the biggest problem. More often it is the social context in which sex work takes place that is difficult. This includes the need to keep the work secret from family and sometimes friends and the legal situation which often means sex workers are isolated. I recognise that social stigma has a huge impact, because it constantly reinforces negative/tragic representations of sex workers in the media, and it informs what people think. Lets face it, it is part of the reason that sex workers have often had such awful experiences of therapy in the past!
I have been approved by the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee (APAC) and committed to working in line with their standards for supporting adult performers and sex workers.
Things I won’t do (based largely on what sex workers have said their previous therapists have done):
- Assume that you are a sex worker because you had no other choice
- Or because you had a messed up childhood
- Or because you are stupid/bad with money
- Or that you need saving
- Or that exiting sex work is always a good thing (or always a bad thing)
- Or that you can’t engage in therapy because you are a sex worker
- Or that it is evidence that you are messed up
- Or judge your clients
- Or suggest that you are a bad person because you are a sex worker
What I will do:
- Believe that you are the expert in your life
- Believe what you tell me about your work and your relationship to it
- Work out with you what you would like to get out of therapy
- Work with you towards that goal
If you are looking for other therapists that work with sex workers you can look at the Adult Industry Services listing. Two colleagues that I would recommend that have experience in providing therapy to sex workers have websites here and here.