Occupational therapists are trained to provide treatment to restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients suffering from injuries or disease (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Labor, 2004). OTs are invested in helping patients function in their roles, whether its housework, recreation, or employment. OTs help patients achieve independence and function in activities of daily living (ADL). ADLs typically refer to bathing, showering, dressing, eating, movement, and personal hygiene.

Sex is not typically counted amongst the standard ADLs. Nevertheless, sex is a valued human activity that requires strength, endurance, and mobility, and the ability to function sexually is also related to a person’s sense of self-efficacy and role identity. Sexual functioning is an important ADL and should be addressed as well.

Physical disability, orthopedic injury, neurological impairments, or the presence of pain are all conditions that potentially affect sexual function. Occupationall therapists in a variety of settings encounter patients with these conditions.

To address issues surrounding sexuality, it is important that the health professional takes the time to reflect on his/her own biases, values, attitudes, and beliefs regarding sexuality to be able to communicate openly, non-judgmentally, and effectively, and create a supportive and safe environment to assist clients and partners with their needs.

Occupational therapists practicing as pelvic floor therapists focus on restoring independance in all aspects of ADL activities including sexual intercourse.

Lisa Edwards, MOTR/L, BSRS