Increasing Competency in the Therapeutic Care of Sex Workers

By Anna McDonald, MA

On Saturday, May 12, 2018, Open Minds members gathered for a training entitled Increasing Competency in the Therapeutic Care of Sex Workers. 

Approximately 30 Open Minds members gathered at the Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco to learn more about supporting sex workers therapeutically.

The training began with Corrie Varga, Lead Mental Health Clinician at St. James Infirmary, who was joined by Community Engagement Manager, Kalash KaFae Magenta Fire (also from St. James) to share keys to supporting sex workers in our therapeutic work. Together, they provided us with powerful insight into sex worker clients’ unique processes and experiences in an hour long seminar. Afterward, they were joined by Erika Shershun and Ivy Tiegel for a Q&A panel packed with talent and experience.

We looked deeper into the practice of supporting our sex worker clients using harm reduction, trauma-informed, and client-centered care. We explored some of the common clinical issues that arise when serving this population, including relationship issues, shame, substance use, stigma, and occupational trauma. Additionally, we learned about the recent legislature impacting sex workers, SESTA/FOSTA, and the increased occupational risks faced by sex workers, and how to support clients in implementing safer practices in their lives.The training ended with a time for networking, some structured, and some free form.Overall, the training was well received by the community, and a great success. We at Open Minds are grateful to the trainers taking their valuable time to support more mental health professionals in providing competent care for sex workers. We’re also grateful to the Center for Sex and Culture for providing us with a space to have this event.

This training was coordinated by the Open Minds board, and Anna McDonald, the professional development coordinator. We are planning to have future trainings —  so be on the lookout for them and plan to attend.

If you’re not yet a member of Bay Area Open Minds and you are a trainee or mental health professional who supports and works with sexual and gender diversity, as well as supporting sex workers, consider becoming a member today so you can attend programming events like this.