Sex and the Military: The Other Invisible Wounds

Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military Families (CIR)
Sex & The Military: The Other Invisible Wounds

As service members transition back to civilian life, one challenge that many people face is in maintaining a fulfilling sexual relationship with their spouse or partner.  Veterans who have sustained a traumatic brain injury or who are coping with post-traumatic stress are among those who are most at-risk for experiencing problems with intimacy and sexual relationships.  The Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families (CIR) of the University of Southern California School of Social Work has developed an interactive toolkit to help behavioral health practitioners as they work with service members, veterans, spouses and partners.

Target Audience

The toolkit is designed for social workers, but is also very useful for other behavioral health practitioners, such as nurses and psychologists, who work with or plan to work with military populations and/or those who are at risk for sexual functioning problems.


While sexual functioning problems can occur in both military and civilian populations, the toolkit focuses on the unique features within the military that can impact sexual functioning. Service members are exposed to physical and psychological challenges that can lead to or exacerbate sexual functioning and intimacy problems. While this toolkit does not provide comprehensive training related to sexual functioning and military populations, it aims to increase awareness and knowledge of these issues so that professionals will be better prepared to address them in a clinical setting.

The toolkit helps professionals:

  • Recognize salient issues related to intimacy and sexual functioning in military personnel, veterans, and their intimate partner.
  • Identify communication strategies for talking with patients about sexual functioning.
  • Recognize intervention strategies for patients with sexual functioning issues, and when to refer to other clinical personnel.
  • Recognize the need for policy change in the area of sexual functioning and the military, and identify strategies to champion this change.


This toolkit includes the following main components.

  • Research Overview. A brief research-based background of the issues presented.
  • Video Vignettes Activity. Three video vignettes of a client/patient interaction with supporting materials for background and discussion, as well as communication and intervention strategies.
  • Policy Briefs. CIR’s recommendations for policy change related to sexual functioning issues in the military, and what can be done to help effect change.
  • Resources and References. Additional resources for working with clients with sexual functioning issues and suggestions for further reading.
Posted on BrainLine August 11, 2015.