Helping patients and clients overcome their blocks
“I always kept quiet about sex because I’m a lesbian.
When my doctor started talking about sex
without making assumptions or seeming disapproving,
that made all the difference.”
It’s possible to help clients overcome their blocks to talking about sex by being open to the conversation. This will help clients feel comfortable, help them feel that health professionals are approchable.
Here are some guidelines:
Grab the moment when the topic of a client’s partner or their daily life pops up.
Spot the signs. Start the conversation when a client’s symptoms indicate that there might be a sexual problem linked with their condition, their medication, or their emotional state.
Open the door. Use a starter comment of the kind we suggest on the Opening Lines page. But don’t push the client to talk about an issue. It may take a while before they feel ready to confide about what’s bothering them so, if it seems there’s a difficulty, try to start a conversation again at the next consultation.
Give permission. Be open, relaxed and non-judgemental in words and body language. It may help to reassure the client that what they say will remain absolutely confidential (unless against the law).
Give emotional permission. Clients may feel strongly emotional around their sexuality, so reassure them that it is natural to feel anxious.
Ask, don’t assume. Never assume anybody has a particular lifestyle, sexual preference or orientation, or that because they are ill, disabled, elderly or single, they’re not having partner sex or masturbating. Always check.
Reassure. No one wants to feel they are the ‘only one’, so let the client know that others have confided similar issues to the issues they have confided – and that a difficulty can usually be resolved.
Thank them. If a client feels valued for having confided their issues to you, they will be more likely to discuss their concerns next time.
Remember that there are many different ways that people express and enjoy their sexuality and sex life — it’s helpful to be aware and open to these. If you feel uncomfortable or lack information, seek another colleague who may be able to help or advise, or refer the client on to a sexual health or wellbeing organisation. See the list of Resources on this website.
For comprehensive resources to support your work, click here