Marco Posadas

Recipient: March 2013 

Marco Posadas' long-term wish list, two stand out: "More funding for proper long-term mental health interventions for LGBTT populations and a more comprehensive and realistic immigration and refugee system in Canada that doesn't discriminate by country of origin, but evaluates the person holistically."  Marco Posadas, MSW, RSW, is a Bathhouse Counsellor and Program Coordinator at the AIDS Committee of Toronto, where he has developed and implemented a community-based mental health outreach program called TowelTalk funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. This innovative intervention is designed to assist men in addressing the psychosocial issues that impact their sexual health. Marco also operates a private psychotherapy and psychoanalysis practice. He is being recognized by OASW as an Inspirational Leader during Social Work Week, which is celebrated March 4-10, 2013, under the theme: "Restoring Hope - The Power of Social Work".  

Marco welcomes the opportunity to describe his mental health outreach program: "The TowelTalk team conducts anti-oppressive, anti-racist, anti-homophobic, client-centered, strength-based, insight-oriented and sex-positive therapeutic counselling from a harm-reduction perspective in a highly sexualized environment.  We try to reach men who we believe fall through the cracks in the system and engage them in a "first-step" intervention. We attempt to build a therapeutic alliance that would support them in breaking systemic barriers and enable them to access community-based services." The first program of its kind, TowelTalk has received international attention and Marco has been invited to present on his work at conferences around the world. 

In his private practice, Marco works from a psychoanalytic perspective with LGBTT and under served populations: "My goal is to carve a space within the psychoanalytic community to reach marginalized populations that can benefit from solid, effective and evidence-based interventions like psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy." 

Based on his personal and clinical experience, Marco strongly believes that carving up a space for people to retell and listen to their own stories can drive personal change and growth at an individual level that ultimately can address systemic challenges.  He explains: "The experience of working through internalized shame and stigma can be a very powerful tool for change that brings hope.  I believe that creating space for communities that have been systematically marginalized can be a critical tool for social change.  I think creativity, courage and a supportive environment can help social workers to think outside of the box to find solutions that can be accessible for people who fall through the cracks or have lost hope.  I believe psychotherapy is a tool that has helped me carve such a space to address the impact that social exclusion, oppression, stigma, shame and guilt has had in the LGBTT community, immigrant communities and survivors of trauma." 

When it comes to achieving professional dreams, Marco believes that we all face many challenges.  He reports: "In my professional career to become a social worker and psychotherapist, I experienced challenges within the psychoanalytic community, the HIV community and the social work community.  The main challenge within these three communities has been to overcome the barriers created by the status quo of "how things should be done". For example, carving out a space within the HIV community for a mental health intervention was challenging, but slowly, once you gain credibility within the community - and being a social worker really helped me to open doors - then change starts to happen. A commitment to service, self-determination and social justice are the core values I draw from which help me to keep focused on the hard work of working through pain, trauma, shame, guilt and stigma."

Marco reports that, as a gay man in Mexico in the 90's, he was not allowed to train as a psychoanalyst, as it was then believed that homosexuals would not be suitable candidates to become psychoanalysts. He indicates: "After I migrated to Canada and trained as a social worker, I was able to begin my training to become a psychoanalyst.  I believe that these challenges, in addition to my immigration experience, galvanized me and kept me motivated to reach my personal dream." Marco has also found opportunities in working collaboratively with different sectors.  He advises: "Let your work do the talking.  There are a lot of people out there who really care about making mental health care accessible for everyone - find a mentor, work with them and stay focussed on your personal growth." 

Marco is proud to have carved a space for marginalized populations (specifically immigrants in Canada and LGBTT) and marginalized forms of intervention (psychoanalysis) within different sectors in the community: "I work within the intersection of psychoanalysis, social work, HIV, and LGBTT and I feel very inspired by the response of all these communities to my work. The psychoanalytic community has been welcoming of different ideas and forms of interventions that provide mental health outreach to people who normally wouldn't access services due to prejudice or fear of being stigmatized.  I feel very honored, humbled and encouraged to continue my work." 

For Marco, it is very inspiring to be in the trenches where therapeutic action and personal growth happen. He says: "When I see that we as social workers can actually drive change, it's very hard to stop.  I feel very privileged to be able to listen to people's histories and see them work through very difficult experiences." He adds: "Finding people that believe in me has helped me ride the wave and stay motivated.  I am very grateful to have amazing role models and a support network that have shown me the way to find my own voice as a psychotherapist and as a social worker." Marco also credits a supportive partner and a family that believe in him in keeping him inspired. 

Marco does not think there are essential attributes for inspirational leaders: "I think we all can be leaders at any given moment.  The common elements I see in the people that I look up to and admire are a brutal sense of honesty and generosity; they are also compassionate, caring, and able to listen and read between the lines.  They think differently and are present in a way that makes me feel valued and cared for.  In essence, effective leaders inspire hope."

Marco Posadas is an inspirational leader in the social work community - creative, courageous, generous.  During Social Work Week, March 4-10, 2013, and throughout the year, take the time to acknowledge social workers who make a difference.