Meet Connective Therapy Collective!
Offering therapy, supervision and training for community members and professionals who seek to increase competencies in caring for marginalized sex and gender populations. A professional community committed to intersectional, trauma-informed, pleasured centered practice helping to heal individuals and LGBTQI couples and in diverse facets of sex work.
Melissa Trujillio, administrative assistant and marketing manager to licensed social worker and AASECT certified sex therapist Angie Gunn of Equitable Care and the Connective Therapy Collective met up with SWOP Behind Bars to share some of the hopes the collective. First we discussed the collective, made up of nine core team members dedicated to intersectional healing. Then Angie herself got back to us for a one on one interview.
Equitable Care and the Connective Therapy Collective supports more than one hundred sex workers annually, creating pathways for community integration and navigating mental health needs, particularly the impact of stigma and harmful systems and legislation on vulnerable community members. Hoping to help heal the wounds of lifestyle and transactional warriors, the collective is actively seeking funding to cultivate curriculum materials for therapists and helpers, with the goal of increasing competency in caring for sex workers of all identities. As the certification for therapists rolls out, more clinical and helping professionals will gain the tools for supporting trauma healing and integration of experiences during the work and at re-entry. Trauma informed re-entry centers the lived experience of the person, their adaptation to survive, and ways to build empowerment and resilience long term. Though all of this is still formative, we want to welcome them to the table as we strive to cultivate broader networks of healing support systems for our shared sex work and lifestyle alliances.
SBB: Angie, you came out as a sex worker. This is huge! Publicly identifying with many of the privacy concerns your clients may have from your own experiential perspective is huge. Can you tell us a bit about the sex work you have done, and why you chose to “come out under the red umbrella”?
Angie Gunn of Connective Therapy Collective : Thank you for that reflection. Since I’m working in a clinical and managerial capacity still I keep the details of my current work confidential for my safety and that of my staff. But over the last 12 years I have done full service, Domme, and video/ content based work. It was important to me to come out in order to best support my clients who feel safer with a therapist who gets at least a bit of their lived experience. I also believe at this juncture sex workers need folks who aren’t ashamed to be associated and linked publicy. They need allies and accomplices that support the professionalization of sex work; who champion it as just as valid as clinical or medical work and elevate their voice in other professional spaces typically devoid of sex work perspectives. I do understand that I am in a position of privilege which allows me to own this identity without as much fear of harm, since I am self employed and working primarily with marginalized populations.
SBB: Do you have any advice for sex workers to consider before coming out?
ANGIE: The first point to consider is the potential risks to your well-being, and that of your family, community, or business. If you’re working in a default world job within a large corporation, or a family business, coming out might mean termination or other retaliation. So prior to coming out it’s important to have a back up plan in terms of work and income if needed. The second consideration is your support systems. Do you have folks in your corner who see and support all the parts of you, including your sex work self? And third, I’d recommend spending time in reflection about the reasons you’re motivated to come out. Who will benefit and is this the best way to facilitate that?
SBB: Are you active in the DECRIM 4 SAFETY effort in your region?
ANGIE: I’m currently exploring my and my organization’s role in direct activism outside of the certification we’re building and the clients we care for. We support decriminalization and contribute to organizations leading these efforts.
SBB: What is your favorite part of working with the communities you do?
ANGIE: More than any other population, working with sex workers challenges me to humanize the work and myself, to move out of labels, roles and the associated power dynamics and stigmas, to just be. I grow and learn so much in every conversation.
SBB: What is the hardest part of the work you are doing?
ANGIE: We’re fighting against a wall of intertwining systems of oppression, constantly hitting barriers to basic safety and well-being, access to care and building community. Often the capacity to impact or dismantle these systems feels out of reach or so overwhelming that we can’t imagine a world where stigma and harm isn’t a daily experience. But my ability to see and name the systemic problems (as the root of harm, instead of the work) is a gift that I can continue to give in every conversation, every day.
SBB: I thank you for taking time to speak us, Angie. We really hope through your collective efforts will be able to contribute to the incarcerated community we serve, especially with life mentor letters and reentry support.
SBB: Do you have any last thoughts to share with us?
ANGIE: I’m excited to use my platform to shift the experiences of sex workers in the mental health care system, to change the way that the system sees sex work and the beautiful, resilient and powerful humans in the work. I’d love to experience a world where sex workers are colleagues in healing communities, resources for supporting humans using all the wisdom and tools at our disposal.
SBB: Thanks so much for your candid response. A pleasure to catch up with you, Angie!
For more on their mission or to connect for trauma based support contact the therapy team at www.connectivetherapycollective.com