Kink and Polyamory Aware Chicago Therapists group supports knowledge and connection

By Essie Shachar-Hill, LCSW and Cindy Trawinski, Psy.D

On a warm summer evening in 2014, over forty clinicians gathered at a networking event for therapists of kinky and polyamorous clients in Chicago. As the late day sun streamed in, the group mingled over drinks and appetizers in the office of LifeWorks Psychotherapy Center, the host for the evening. There was a feeling of excitement, warmth, and connection.

Origins - a group of like-minded professionals meet

LifeWorks Psychotherapy Center was a fledgling organization at the time, and we were looking for other therapists to whom we could refer clients. The practice decided to host an evening of learning and connection with other sex-positive therapists, focusing on a presentation about personal and professional boundaries in small communities. This topic was an important one for the presenters, Cindy Trawinski, Psy.D. and Rami Henrich, LCSW who were (and still are) life partners who founded LifeWorks which provides psychotherapy in queer, kinky and polyamorous communities of the Chicago area.

Before the evening was over, it was clear that the attendees were hungry for more opportunities to learn and connect, and there was a much bigger vision on the horizon. Thus, Kink and Polyamory Aware Chicago Therapists (KPACT) was born. KPACT became a resource to educate, train, and support a community of Chicago-area psychologists, social workers, counselors, sex therapists, educators, and psychiatrists who wanted to connect with like-minded mental health professionals. KPACT’s mission became clear: to deepen professionals’ understanding of issues faced by kinky, polyamorous, and non-monogamous people. This mission naturally formed from the awareness of the growing need for competent and culturally sensitive clinicians to serve these often overlooked, pathologized, or marginalized clients.

Since that first evening in 2014, KPACT has offered over 25 CE-bearing education events and 1 day-long workshop attended by more than 750 clinicians and mental health graduate students. Topics have ranged from raising children in polyamorous families to the intersections of race and kink, to disability-affirming sex-positivity. Since pivoting to a virtual platform in 2020, we regularly have attendees from all over the US and the world! KPACT has become a professional community and network. In addition to these educational events, KPACT hosts a private online group for therapists to share resources, ask questions and find referrals. The conversations and posts in the group are lively and frequent – they serve as reminders of the power of collaboration and the need for increased support for marginalized populations.

As KPACT continues to grow, we have some exciting plans for 2023. On July 7, 2023, we are thrilled to be hosting Adria Kurchina-Tyson to teach “Decolonizing Kink: Colonial Pathologies and Clinical Practice.” Please join us!

Later this year, we will be dusting off our retro website and launching an updated site
which will include a directory for Chicago-area professionals who serve kinky and polyamorous
communities. (Thanks to NCSF’s KAP directory for the inspiration!) If you are a mental health clinician serving the kinky and polyamorous communities, we invite you to join our mailing list and connect with us. We are stronger together, and we look forward to being in community with you.

About the Authors

Cindy Trawinski, Psy.D., Dipl PW

Cindy Trawinski, Psy.D., Dipl PW, is a clinical psychologist and Diplomate in process-oriented psychology.  She is the managing partner at LifeWorks Psychotherapy Center, a leader in providing sex-positive psychotherapy services to the LGBTQIA+, kink/BDSM, Polyamory/CNM and sex work communities of the greater Chicago area. In addition, Cindy also consults with solo practitioners and small private practice groups who wish to grow their business.

Essie Shachar-Hill, LCSW

Essie Shachar-Hill, LCSW, is a therapist and Programs Manager at LifeWorks Psychotherapy and manages KPACT activities, membership, and events. As a therapist they work with teens and adults and they specialize in working with fellow trans people. Prior to becoming a clinician, Essie spent several years working on mezzo-level social change by supporting organizations to become more supportive of LGBTQ+ people through policy, programming, and culture. Essie believes that training and education for professionals and the general public is crucial for transforming oppressive societal conditions.

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