THE MEANING OF SEXUAL WELL-BEING TO PHYSICALLY DISABLED PEOPLE: IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE
Authors: Lee, S. and Collins, B.
Conference: Royal College of Occupational Therapy
Dates: 11-13 June 2018
Journal: BRITISH JOURNAL OF OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY
Promoting sexual well-being in professional practice This presentation explores insights from doctoral research investigating sexual well-being. The project gained ethical approval from Dorset County Council and Bournemouth University. Sexual well-being is one of the most significant aspects in life (Taylor, 2011), profoundly connected to human well-being where pleasure, person to person connection and communication enhances self-worth and confidence (Myers and Milner, 2007; Dunk, 2007; Owens, 2015). Marginalised groups, including disabled and older people, are subject to sexual disenfranchisement, with narratives of asexuality leading to exclusion from opportunities for sexual expression. This has a profound impact on mental and physical well-being. The Care Act, 2014 in England, underpinned by the well-being principle, requires practitioners to be prepared and able, to support people in identifying what impacts on their own well-being, including sexual well-being. This exploratory, collaborative, approach to well-being has the potential to uncover sensitive issues which present practitioners with opportunities to directly apply their interpersonal skills. Sexual well-being is a sensitive topic, but social care practitioners’ preparedness to discuss difficult and sensitive subjects is a professional strength (Bywaters and Ungar, 2010). Engagement with sexual well-being is an aspect of practice which faces multi-layered barriers, ranging from social taboos around sex and disability, to personal values, culture and experience. Fear of risk, uncertainty about the law, and lack of policy or guidance create an environment where enabling people’s sexual expression is problematic, yet the Human Rights Act, 1998, makes explicit that agencies must not inhibit citizens’ rights to a private life and relationships of their choice (Article 8) – risk averse practice may seek to protect, yet break human rights law.
The presentation will explore findings from the research which suggests meaningful ways to promote sexual well-being and enable practitioners to overcome barriers to their engagement with the topic. Session aimed at Practitioners and students Keywords Adult physical health Social Care Older people
References Bywaters P.and Ungar M. (2010) ‘Health and well-being’, in Shaw I.Briar-Lawson K.Orme J.Ruckdeschel R. (eds), The Sage Handbook of Social Work Research , London, Sage, pp. 392–405.
Dunk-West, P. 2007. ‘Everyday Sexuality and Social Work: Locating Sexuality in Professional Practice and Education’, Social Work and Society 5(2), available at: http://www.socwork.net/sws/issue/current Myers S. and Milner J. (2007) Sexual Issues in Social Work , Bristol, BASW.
Owens, T. 2015. Supporting Disabled People with Their Sexual Lives. London: Jessica Kingsley. Taylor B. (2011) ‘ The impact of assistive equipment on intimacy and sexual expression’, British Journal of Occupational Therapy , 74(9), pp. 435–42.
Preferred by: Sally Lee