Toward Affirming Therapy: What Sex Workers Want and Need From Mental Health Providers

Pederson, Anna C., Madeline R. Stenersen, and Sara K. Bridges. 2019. ‘Toward Affirming Therapy: What Sex Workers Want and Need From Mental Health Providers’. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, August, 0022167819867767.

Within the field of psychology, the development of a culture of competency both in training programs and, more specifically, related to working with historically underrepresented and underserved populations has been making significant progress. One group who has been neglected, however, consists of individuals who consensually work in the commercial sex trade industry (i.e., sex workers). The current Delphi study begins to address this gap. Using responses from eight sex workers to explore factors affecting disclosure of occupation to therapists, barriers and facilitators to receiving mental health care, and areas for educational growth among mental health professionals, the results reveal participants’ preference for therapists who take an affirming approach regarding their occupation (e.g., respecting the hard work, skill, and emotional labor) and do not assume that they are in therapy because of their work. Broadly, this article highlights the knowledge, skills, and attitudes sex workers believe comprise critical areas of competency for therapists working with this often-stigmatized population. Ultimately, these results can be used to advance competent, just, and effective therapy with this population.

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