In Part One of ‘Talking about Sex’, I spoke of sex as the ‘elephant in the room’ that is often never spoken about…
In this newsletter, I want to talk to Health professionals…about Talking about Sex…!
If you’re not a Health Professional, no problem – you will learn much about what to look for and ask of your Health Professional concerning sex and sexuality issues.
Sex should be a ‘normal’ enjoyable part of the life of most healthy adults, unless they choose otherwise. Talking about sex, really talking about sex, can help produce better outcomes for clients/patients, and yes, sometimes for us as health care professionals in our own lives!
Sex is the part of our personal life that most of us may prefer to keep private and not talk about it - yet talking about sexuality with our patients in the right context can be both liberating and therapeutic.
So first...Make a Decision
As a Health Professional, it's highly likely that you will have some clients/patients who present with sexuality issues – they may not discuss them with you though, depending on their level of dis/comfort, and of course, their perception of your level of comfort with the issue.
Remember, much of their dis/comfort will hinge upon your own level of dis/comfort.
So, first, make a decision if you will speak to your clients/patients about sex.
If you choose not to do this for whatever reason, and you have any reason to think that sexuality issues might be present, refer to a specialist Sexologist. At inSync For Life, we have a highly experienced Clinical Sexologist / Counsellor who speaks easily about all matter of sexual issues and who creates a comfortable and safe environment for clients to do the same.
If you decide to discuss sexual and sexuality issues with your clients or patients, it's important to be truly present to hear their concerns about sex. With such a sensitive issue, it is vital that the person 'feels heard'.
Too often, Health Professionals fear the proverbial opening of ‘Pandora’s Box’ - if we start talking about sex...where might it lead...I might be in over my head!
But try to think of it as you might other presenting problems...ask yourself:
Is there something I can do right now? Or do I need to refer on?
With many or most sexual issues, it's unlikely that you will be able to address them there and then. Instead, it’s about supporting the individual and acknowledging her or his concerns to let them know that they are being heard. Just being heard and acknowledged, is usually of enormous relief to the person.
Third...Refer on and Be Current
The next step is to consider what you can do to support the person to address the presenting problems. Remembers, for sexual issues...it's not about being the 'sexpert'.
Instead, and depending on the complexity of the issue, it is quite often a multidisciplinary approach to treatment. Issues such as dyspareunia, vaginismus, vulvodynia, and menopausal and peri-menopausal issues are likely to require the input of a medical practitioner, Clinical Sexologist, specialist physiotherapist and others.
It almost goes without saying that to provide optimum service, we all need to be current with basic knowledge about sexual health and medicine.
Know what recourses and referral networks are available to you and your clients/patients, in both the public and private health systems.
Of much importance though, is to have an awareness of your own sexuality and how you feel about sex. Some questions you might consider asking yourself in the privacy of your own mind:
Some final points to consider:
As a Health Professional, I believe that we all have a duty of care to check with our client/patient to ask how she or he might be feeling about their sexuality or about their sexual intimacy, whether single, in a heterosexual relationship, gay, lesbian or transgender.
This will not only help planning for their overall health, but also let the individual know that their sexuality is important and that we, as their Health Professional, value and ‘see’ all of them