How Can Healthcare Providers Who Aren't Comfortable Talking About Sexuality and Intimacy Help Their Patients?


How can healthcare providers who aren't comfortable talking about sexuality and intimacy help their patients?


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[Glenn Parkinson] Well, it's really important to be sensitive to a patient's comfort level when you talk about social health issues. It's really important to keep in mind, too, that there's a variety of comfort within providers themselves. As I've said before, I have been talking about this for a very long time, so I have a high level of comfort. Sometimes even I'm taken aback by someone who feels less comfortable. And it would be really unfortunate for a patient or a family member or anyone who has a question about something and may feel a little bit uncomfortable asking it to ask a provider who wasn't prepared with an answer for them. It doesn't mean that every provider needs to be able to talk about these things. It doesn't mean that they need to be able to go into things. Sometimes providers have their own cultural and also religious feelings about who should be having sex and what that sex should be like, and so it's really important for providers who do have a clear sense of what their own boundaries are related to that to know who within their treatment community would be an appropriate referral for that person, either to give them more detailed medical information about whatever their concern is or to have a more open conversation with them about what the patient's personal choices are and what the patient would want for themselves for their own sense of sexual satisfaction and freedom. So that's really important to keep in mind as well. It's okay for people to have a discomfort with it, but to know that and to have other resources available is the optimal.
Posted on BrainLine May 13, 2013.

About the author: Glenn Parkinson

Glenn Parkinson, MSW, MA works as the psychotherapist on the Traumatic Brain Injury service at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. She works with active duty and retired military personnel and their families specializing in combat-related injuries.

Glenn Parkinson

Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough and Erica Queen, BrainLine.