Health and Wellness Professionals

With no SW experience

Rethink what you think you know

It’s crucial to become aware of and put aside assumptions when working with someone who has done or does sex work:

  • Question pre-conceived ideas about what kind of people do sex work and how well they run their lives.
  • Think about times you've gone to work purely to bring in money to survive.
  • Question pre-conceived opinions about where sexuality should be sanctioned and understand that other people may feel differently.
  • Know the difference between consensual sex work and trafficking.
  • Know that consent is still paramount in a situation where a sexual or erotic experience is being provided for money. Non-consensual touch etc is still a violation and abuse in this context.
  • Understand that someone can have a mental health condition and/or an addiction and do sex work and the two may be unrelated.
  • Understand that sex work can allow someone with for example chronic pain or a neurodiversity to work in a way that suits them.
  • Understand that people you might consider to be well-adjusted, financially stable and healthy choose to join this line of work for logical, healthy reasons.
  • Know that being a sex worker does not automatically qualify someone as a drug addict or a criminal. Nor does it mean they are unable to think for themselves.
  • Think about times when your work was neither enjoyable nor empowering but it was still valid. What's the difference?

Someone you know does sex work and someone you know uses sexual services and/or entertainment and you might consider them 'normal, ordinary' people. It's time to update our sexuality IQ.

Inequality and prejudice

Here are some examples of the experiences sex workers have had:

  • Being denied medication for a mental health condition because they do full service sex work.
  • Encountering inappropriate questioning when they disclose their sex work to a health practitioner.
  • Being pressured to leave sex work by a counsellor or mental health practitioner.
  • Being assaulted by a massage therapist when they disclosed they were a stripper.
  • Being ridiculed when going for STI tests by their doctor and phlebotomist.

These are human rights contraventions. If you work in a caring profession, don’t breach your code of conduct by perpetrating and perpetuating these human rights violations.

This article highlights some of these issues - essential reading for anyone in care, health or wellness, particularly for those from a caucasian background:

Some evidence for this

An unofficial poll on the Ess Wellness Instagram account (1-2 November 2023) found that the majority of service users think twice about telling health and wellness providers what they do.


would hesitate to tell

mainstream health providers

they did SW.


would tell

mental health professionals

they did SW.


would hesitate to tell

physical and nutritional therapists

they did SW.

  • Telling a mainstream health provider: 26% of respondents said they definitely would not, 58% said it would depend, and 16% said they would. (Sample size: 31)
  • Telling a mental health providers: 50% of respondents said they would tell the practitioner, 50% said it would depend. (Sample size: 30)
  • Telling a massage or nutritional therapist: 50% of respondents said they would not, 46% said it would depend, and 4% said they would. (Sample size: 28)


Even if someone isn’t opposed to the concept of sex work in the many forms that it takes, they might inadvertently act inappropriately by allowing curiosity to get the better of them. This might be asking questions like:

  • How can you [get naked in front of people/deal with those customers/do xyz] for work?
  • What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you at work?
  • Your customers must be awful. What’s the weirdest thing they’ve ever done?
  • You must make a lot of money. How much do you make?
  • But you’re better than that. Why don’t you do something else for work?
  • What about STIs?
  • Do you have a partner? Do they like you doing this?

Your client has come to you for help, healing or improved health, not to be othered or have to educate you, which can compound ill-health and distress. Instead, there are many first-person accounts both on social media and in books that you can read in your time off.

Educate yourself

Articles in mainstream therapy publications are often misinformed or sometimes even written by people who are ideologically opposed to sex work but masquerade as wanting to help people in need.

Educate yourself as to why sex workers oppose things like the Nordic Model or strip club bans. Learn about the whorearchy. Learn about how intersectional identifying factors such as race, gender, disability etc affect sex workers differently. Also understand that due to the way society views sex work, clients may have experienced multiple traumas.

We are more than capable of thinking clearly and speaking for ourselves so search out the many sex worker-led campaigns and groups that provide information. Here is a selection of examples.  Let me know if there are other sources that I should include here, especially given the way social media algorithms can limit diversity:

Here are some individual content creators and sex workers who also talk about these issues. (NB: some posts on their pages are NSFW):

Other good information:

    Get training

    There’s more and more sex-worker specific training being developed for people in health, wellness and social care who want to provide sex worker-affirmative care and support.

    Initiatives for talk therapists:

    Open to all though particularly for people in the health and care sector:

    • Working with Women Sex Workers  - from Basis  (UK) - 1-day course online that covers SW basics, relevant laws, violence/safety, barriers to accessing services, best practice etc. Some information is UK-specific but much of the rest also applies to people in other countries.
    • Sex Worker Awareness Training - from Sex Workers Alliance Ireland - 1-2 hours in person or online for people in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

    Thanks to the sex workers who helped with the information on this page