Empowering Therapy: A Guide for Working with Individuals Engaged in Sex Work A Training for Mental Health Counselors

Date of Award

Spring 5-2-2024

Document Type

Project (696 or 796 registration)

Degree Name

Master of Science in Counseling


Graduate Studies

Committee Chair

Aaron Suomala Folkerds


Sex worker, affirmative therapy, Internalized stigma, bias, societal myths of sex work


Individuals who engage in sex work are part of a stigmatized and marginalized population that require special considerations. This training manual provides an example framework for a treatment skill modality that is based on a comprehensive review of the current literature regarding the most effective treatment modalities for mental health professionals working with the population of sex workers. There is proximal and distal stressors that will need to be identified, strengths need to be uncovered and highlighted, and utilizing the strengths based affirmative approach to lessen the internalized stigma that are hiding their experiences in life. Utilizing a framework based on affirmative strength-based skills when utilizing various theoretical frame shows a marked improvement in treatment outcomes. There is a need for a cultural humility and competency for client centered care that is based on a foundation of trust and nonjudgement. It is critical for mental health professionals to examine their own biases and assumptions about sex work as a business and the sex workers who engage in it. Additionally, there is a component of advocacy that should be undertaken outside of the therapeutic setting to work toward changing the societal barriers experienced by those engaged in sex work. This training manual utilizing evidence based, culturally sensitive, and holistic treatment modalities and considerations to help pave a way for helping those who engage in sex work be able to get quality mental health help.

Abstract only: No full text available.