Sexuality is an essential part of our being. When things are going well, it fits within our other many identities. However, if our sexuality is not going how we would like it, it can become overwhelming and cloud all aspects of our life. Unfortunately, in our society there remains so much shame around sexual expression, and we are hemmed in by social expectations steaming from ridged views on masculinity and femininity and "normal sexual behaviour".
As professionals, we work within our culture, as such you may also experience your own shame or fear about asking questions about sexual trauma. That's understandable. We are not taught how to talk about sex when it is going well, let alone when it is not.
However, physiotherapists are in a unique position to help people heal from their sexual shame. In doing your job, touching client's bodies, you can trigger memories of sexual trauma. Triggering is not the problem, in fact it offers an opportunity for restoration and healing. You don't have to be an expert. Empathy dissolves shame. Empathy can be communicated by giving permission to speak, by asking questions, acknowledging the physical reactions, with non-judgemental listening and validation, without trying to fix any feeling, empathy is what helps people heal.
Georgina Whelan is a Clinical Psychologist and Sex Therapist with over 20 years experience working in mental health. She has worked in private practice specialising in the area of sexual function, sexuality, gender, and relationships for the last 13 years. Prior to private practice, Georgina worked for 4 years in public sexual health and drug and alcohol as both a sexual health nurse and intern psychologist, and before that 8 years working in acute inpatient and community mental health as a clinical nurse specialist.
Women's, Men's and Pelvic Health National Group
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