Resources for Helping Professionals

SWOP-Chicago has developed a series of trainings for agencies and individuals who work with individuals in the sex trade.  If would like SWOP-Chicago to present for your agency staff/volunteers, or would like to attend a training, please contact

SWOP-Chicago Resources

Language Tips: This Hand-Out offers advice on language sensitivity and ways to ensure non-judgemental, non-shaming communication with sex-worker clients.

Guidelines for Mental Health Professionals: Inspired by the APA guidelines for psychologists working with Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual clients, this document offers mental health professionals suggestions on how to provide culturally sensitive, non-stigmatizing support to individuals currently and previously involved in the sex trade, as well as their partners.

Advice for Medical Professionals: This report includes advice sheets on ways to make patients comfortable disclosing involvement in the sex trade, and providing culturally sensitive care that meets sex-worker needs. It also describes findings from a recent survey on sex worker’ needs and experiences with helping professionals.

Other Awesome Resources

The Mental Health-Seeking Behaviors of Female Sex Workers Wong’s Social Work masters’ thesis includes a literature review of mental health and sex work and describes the experiences of 30 female sex workers with therapists. A great resource for clinical social workers, therapists, psychiatrists & psychologists working with individuals in the sex trade.

Burnout among Female Indoor Sex Workers Vanwesenbeeck’s study of 96 female, indoor workers in Holland examines factors (experienced stigma, role-conflict, level of victimization, workload, job autonomy, drug use, age, age of entry, career duration, and work setting) that contribute to emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and professional competence among indoor sex workers. The study suggests that emotional exhaustion is (53% of variance) is primarily caused by lack of management support, negative social reactions, not working by choice, and negative working motivation; and depersonalization (42% of variance) is primarily caused by not working by choice, negative social reactions, experiences of violence, and lack of control in interaction with clients. The study finds that sex worker rates of “emotional exhaustion” and “professional competence” are comparable with a comparison group of nurses, but rates of “depersonalization” are higher, largely the result of stigma, poor work conditions, and incidence of violence.

Management of Sex Workers and Other High-Risk Groups Reviews existing literature on the needs of diverse populations in sex work and evaluations of existing physical, mental health, and harm-reduction programs.

Sex Workers Unite for Health And Human Rights. A report, published by the OSI documenting projects in eight countries where service providers have worked helped empower and organize sex workers to promote safe-sex practice, fight police abuse and obtain rights, and reduce forced and underage prostitution.

Making Sex Work Safe: A Practical Guide for Programme Managers, Policy-Makers and Field Workers. Cheryl Overs and Paulo Long.

Published by the National Network of Sex Worker Projects, this 96 page book is a must-read for any service provider serving populations involved in the sex trade. The book contains examples of successful programs in urban and rural settings in both developing and industrialized countries. It recommends ways to develop, implement, and evaluate strategies for distributing appropriate materials and information, encouraging effective use of sexual health clinics, minimizing crime and violence, and providing effective social and economic support to sex workers. The book also explores a number of specific issues such as drug use, mobility, sex tourism, community development, human rights and public health policy.

Top Ten Positive Changes for Agency Staff. Young Women’s Empowerment Project.

Ten tips for agency staff working with young women who trade sex for money.

The United Kingdom Network of Sex Worker Projects has developed a number of best-practice guides for conducting street-based outreach, working with trans, male, and migrant workers, and ethically supporting individuals who want to exit the sex trade. While some points of advice are sensitive to prostitution laws and do not apply for individuals/organizations in the United States, these best-practice guides provide general information on how to most effectively work with and reach individuals in the sex trade.

Our memo on prostitution laws, sentencing, and expungement offers useful information on the legal system as it relates to sex work for agencies and individuals working with populations in the sex trade and individuals with prostitution convictions on their record.

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