Counseling for Prostitution

Counseling plays an important role in assisting prostitutes in reshaping their lives completely.


Counseling plays an important role in assisting prostitutes in reshaping their lives completely. Therapists all over the globe expressed and documented multiple approaches to helping this category of sex workers. Methods of assistance that they suggest differing based on the specificity of the case. Approaches to therapy vary in age, type of psychological and physical experienced trauma as well as in willingness of the prostitute to cooperate and accept help. This paper will give a condensed overview of the literature on counseling prostitutes and pertinent applications of group therapy in counseling.

Counseling women involved in prostitution is a slow process that consists of several stages. The scholars describe five main phases which are the following: 1) readiness and engagement; 2) treatment and support; 3) transition and stabilization; 4) reconstruction and rebuilding; 5) new role and identity. He also expresses an opinion that assistance to the prostitute has to involve assessment of the trauma, referral to certain specialists, and provision of peer support, vocational training, counseling, and rehabilitation. Training former prostitutes into becoming peer counselors at the support center might be an excellent idea to implement. Jackson also argues that imprisoned prostitutes cannot break the vicious circle mentioned above, and therefore jails serve no useful purpose. Trust and stability cannot be achieved under conditions existing there. The author also states that prostitutes need to be provided with legal, housing benefits and alternatives to their current money earning pattern. Jackson argues that individual counseling and employment support may prove to be useful. Finally, he also summarizes that for successful treatment, prostitutes have to feel safe and tear down the walls they have been building for years.

Many women who come to receive therapy may think that they are in control of the situation, and it would be easy for them to leave the sex industry. A lot of them are telling their tragic life stories as if these were someone else’s lives. The author also states that prostitutes find it difficult to show true emotions and express their feelings. He argues that it is also crucial to understand that many women who decide to quit this sort of activity are in need of money and resources, not only counseling. Prostitutes face problems with housing and proper healthcare, not only marginalization, rejection, and exploitation. Finally, they are also often unaware of the existence of alternative lifestyles and may not even suspect how different their lives may have been without such occupation.

In the other work on counseling women offenders, Jackson states that it is important to consider whether prostitution was a choice for women or an obligation. The author suggests that counseling those who were willing to prostitute differs from aiding the ones who were pushed into this occupation. The author claims that the first category of women may even feel safe and comfortable being a prostitute while the others definitely want to leave. Jackson states that the prostitutes who were forced should be provided with an opportunity to use an alternative income source. Those willing to make a change are able to find help in shelters, rehabs, and counseling centers .

It is also important to consider the underlying reasons of why prostitutes do not seek counseling. He alleges that usually adult prostitutes do not search for help because they are suspicious of outsiders and authorities, fear rejection, and fear change. The author emphasizes that prostitutes may fear admitting that they have been harmed and “be afraid of their pimps who monitor them 24/7 and may accompany them to a doctor’s office”. Moreover, sex workers may struggle to control their lives, hence avoid receiving help and counseling from the doctors or nurses, fearing that their line of work may prevent them from getting adequate aid. Furthermore, Tan also expresses an opinion that many prostitutes experience some sort of psychological paralysis, which involves wanting help but rejecting it at the same time. However, if twenty-four-hour hotlines, counseling, advocacy, and shelter care are made available specifically to prostitutes, they will use them.

Counseling, according to the author, is reported to help prostitutes to recover from sexual trauma and improve their self-esteem. The author also argues that the lucrative criminal industry based on trapping vulnerable young girls in prostitution is a very complex model and can even involve their parents, neighbors, and intimate partners. The therapy suggested by Tan is entitled the “art therapy” for a reason. It involves a socio-ethnographic approach and basics of the narrative analysis. The expert proposes to create a psychologically safe environment for prostitutes. They are suggested to draw some images in a certain chronological order that would tell a story of their life in the sex industry. Such approach proved to be helpful to a significant number of women who worked in the prostitution sphere for many years.

Prostitution is to be treated as a form of the uncontrollable dependence. He states that women who enter the sex industry sector are often using sex as a way to cope with the complexity of the world they live in. They feel lacking control, lonely, depressed and suffer from chronic anger. Hall states that compulsive masturbation, voyeurism and fetishes, exhibitionism, multiple ongoing relationships, dangerous sexual practices, and anonymous sex are obvious signs of the addiction to sex. According to the author, counseling prostitutes with sex addiction is a process that consists of several steps and starts from acceptance of the fact that the problem exists. They have to realize that simple abstinence is not a solution. The author also states that the trigger that initiates such deviant behavior has to be identified for successful counseling to continue and achieve some results. Prostitutes with sex addiction are also to be encouraged to learn how to control their behavior even in cases that are not related to sex. Hall concludes by saying that group work and education about sex addiction provided to sex workers may become extremely useful for minimizing the risk of a relapse.

Perel in her article on erotic intelligence touches the issue of alienation from body and fear of rejection that prostitutes may develop over a period of time. Embarrassment and trauma they suffer from, change the way they perceive normal patterns of behavior in the world of sex. The author advises to have sessions involving reconnection through the pure language of physical touch in such cases. She states that it is commonly believed that venereal diseases and suicide attempts are two greatest health risks for prostitutes. An idea that the psychological effects of sexual abuse are caused by the sexual assaults of which many prostitutes are the victims. The consequences may be the following: rape trauma syndrome, low self-esteem, guilt and self-destructiveness. Working with the victims of sexual violence, it is crucial to be sensitive and listen to client’s needs. It is also extremely important to treat any medical problems and ask about substance abuse. Pregnancy test has to be offered as well, even though it may be hard for the prostitute to take it voluntarily. The counselor has to reassure the prostitute who has been raped that she is safe; otherwise, she might not be willing to open up to a stranger. The author concludes that it is critical to gain her trust. Information about the services for STD’s and their treatment, HIV screening and routine contraceptive use has to be provided to the client. The final step is professional intervention, which presupposes careful attempt to convince the prostitute that there is another life away from selling sex services on the streets. She has to be reassured that there are safety and protection in this other life, and she is not going to experience any similar sexual abuse in the future if she chooses a different path.

Recovery centers, unlike addiction treatment centers, will be extremely needed by prostitutes who have experienced significant trauma and adversity. He states that their self-esteem was practically lost due to the mistreatment of the violent individuals, such as pimps and their customers, whom they confronted. The author suggests that these types of shelters are helping them to overcome fear and abuse and start living a new life. Counseling and rehabilitation centers are providing assistance not only relating to persistent stigma and emotional damage but also to overcoming mental diseases, different sorts of addictions, and other physical and psychological health issues.

Folaron and Williamson in their work on violence in prostitution suggest that there seems to be a strong link between child sexual abuse and prostitution. They argue that many survivors of child sexual abuse are vulnerable to sexual exploitation in prostitution. The typical scenario, in their view, unfolds in the following way: a teen who experienced sexual abuse runs away from home due to the feeling vulnerable, hence risks to be captures by pimps and forced to prostitute. Then they might convince themselves thinking that sexual work is not that difficult and can be practiced and perfected. The survivor may feel that at least in the prostitution sphere, they get paid for sex rather than sexually abused for free. The authors explain that such rationalization is a way for the survivor to reclaim some perceived power, not recognizing that prostitution simply repeats the pattern of sexual exploitation that they have been subjected to throughout an entire life.

Counseling minors have to start from isolating them from the negative influence that they are subdued to. The authors explain that intervening has to be used as a strategy in order to convince a minor that they are ruining their life succumbing to that influence. They have to be explained that people are taking advantage of them and use them as a means of earning money. The authors state that counselor has to encourage prostitutes to regain control over their lives. Many of these minors involved in prostitution may not appear to be seriously traumatized, but this is not entirely true. They may seem to be average children, but the long-term effects of what they lived through may manifest in the future. Any stressor that may remind them of the previous abuse and humiliation may cause resurfacing of the trauma. Even though it may be painful, they must be encouraged to talk about what forced them into prostitution. One more thing that can be done is punishing the offenders.

A “child prostitute” may seem to be a common term which is associated with an underage person working in the sex industry either on the streets or in brothels. In reality, however, these have to be viewed as rapes and assaults of minors. She expresses her opinion that every person involved in the horrendous crime of turning children into prostitutes should be severely punished. Juveniles who were victims of sex recruiters and pimps must be informed about the fate of their abusers. This may bring them some closure and help to move on with their lives.

The group design that is under consideration is the Static Group Design. It incorporates two groups without random assignment. One of them receives therapeutic counseling while the other one does not. The main issue may constitute the problem of finding a comparable group. This issue may be successfully resolved by finding non-participants eligible for the counseling in order to compare them to the group undergoing therapy. The subjects undergoing counseling are women prostitutes admitted to a rehabilitation center. Before tests, they exhibited symptoms of PTSD, low self-esteem, sexual deviance, and rape trauma syndrome. The suggested intervention consists of the group sessions with a cognitive-behavioral, solution-focused approach. After the tests, the findings showed symptoms of distress as well as slow coping and regeneration of normal social function.

Based on the researches mentioned above there are several stages of counseling that might be suggested to prostitutes. Firstly, all of them should be provided with an individual counseling session with the therapist that would determine what aspects of trauma are to be considered and treated. Age, duration of the time spent on the streets, physical and emotional violence, and PTSD symptoms should all be taken into account. All prostitutes are to be encouraged to undergo anonymous medical testing and full health checkup before moving on with the therapy. Women should be encouraged to tell their stories to the group adding more details to it every time. In the beginning, uttering even one sentence might be acceptable. Furthermore, they should be encouraged to establish contact with the other person from the group and hear stories of others. Prostitutes may be asked to start a diary to document all of their feelings during and after the sessions. Every woman should be reassured that it is safe to write down their thoughts on paper openly. Additional one-to-one sessions may be provided to women unwilling to share their thoughts in public. Educational materials are to be provided every group session as well, and prostitutes ought to be encouraged to read the materials provided by the counselor.

To conclude, counseling prostitutes is a lengthy and complicated process that has to be viewed as a therapeutic way of helping women to reenter society. This paper briefly reviewed works of 10 authors related to counseling women working in the sex industry. All the authors suggested increasingly progressive and effective methods in their works. Group therapy is considered to be the optimal way of treating women who suffered from abuse, rape, PTSD, or physical and psychological trauma related to prostitution. Group counseling is to be provided by a professional who is aware of the sensitivity of women undergoing treatment. Group therapy has to take into account the age of prostitutes, the duration of time they worked in the sex industry, and type of physical and emotional trauma, as well as their reasons to seek treatment.

The post was prepared by Kelly Rise, a researcher at