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How Can Healthcare Providers Initiate a Conversation with a Patient About Sexuality and Intimacy?

How Can Healthcare Providers Initiate a Conversation with a Patient About Sexuality and Intimacy?


How can healthcare providers initiate a conversation with a patient about sexuality and intimacy?

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[Glenn Parkinson] In terms of opening the door for patients to talk about these things, sometimes something simple, like instead of asking a question, just making a comment about it, to be sort of declarative about it. "We know, oftentimes, that people have changes in their sexual functioning, either their desire or their ability to have sex the way that they used to following injury— and if you have any questions about that, I'd be happy to answer you or put you in touch with someone who might be able to address those more fully with you." Something super simple like that. Then you can gauge from there sort of where the person goes with it. Their body language will probably tell you a lot. If they sort of [leans body back] then you say, "Uh-huh. Okay. Thanks." Or they may sort of open up about it. They also may come back to you the next time and have more of a followup about that. I think asking questions is really great, too. You can sort of change that into a question. Again, the declarative: "We know that a lot of people have changes in their interest in sex, or the way that they experience themselves sexually after injury. Have you noticed any changes yourself?" Or, "How are things for you? Is there anything that you'd like for us to talk about—address?" Just very generic—sort of open things like that, I think would be very helpful for someone to have the invitation extended.

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Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough and Erica Queen, BrainLine.

Glenn W. Parkinson, MSW, MAGlenn W. Parkinson, MSW, MA, 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.

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