Let's talk about sex: occupational therapists just need 'to do it'

25 February 2021

Sex is a part of human nature and the topic should not be taboo for health professionals working with clients with disabilities.

That's according to CQUniversity sexuality researcher Cathy O'Mullan who believes professionals such as occupational therapists can play an important part in addressing sex concerns for clients.

Dr O'Mullan said her research showed that occupational therapists just need "to do it" for the good of their clients' self-esteem and quality of life.

The research paper – Bringing sexuality out of the closet: What can we learn from occupational therapists who successfully address the area of sexuality in everyday practice? – co-authored by academics from CQUniversity's occupational therapy course' Dr Maria O'Reilly and Professor Pamela Meredith' was published this week.

"Sexuality and relationships are part of human nature' and a fundamental human right' regardless of a person's physical' cognitive' or emotional state'" explained Dr O'Mullan.

"While most healthcare professionals recognise the importance of addressing sexuality' the topic is often neglected.

"However' occupational therapists are well placed to discuss sexuality with clients' and it should be part of their professional toolkit.

"Our research looked at how many occupational therapists are successfully addressing such issues with clients' instead of focussing on the barriers to discussing sexuality in a health care setting."

Dr O'Reilly said the research investigated the experiences of occupational therapists who were comfortable addressing sex and sexuality in practice' with a view to influencing future research and practice.

She said those professionals who address sex and sexuality in their roles are providing a holistic client-centred experience.

"With clear personal and professional boundaries' occupational therapists can address topics within routine practice' utilising core occupational therapy skills' such as communication' collaborative problem solving' pacing' positional and adaptive equipment.

"It's starts with commitment and the motivation to find a way."