General, Journal (Media) Club

#OTalk Journal (Media) Club 4th February 2014 – Postponed

Unfortunately this topic has had to be postponed and will now take place on 2nd September 2014.

February’s Journal Club host Charlotte O’Reilly @CharOTreilly, would like us to consider

Relationships, Sexuality and Occupation.

Thank you to Charlotte for this introduction to the topic.

When I was in my second year studying to be an OT, we were asked to put together a research article. During my project, I came across this journal which I feel I learnt a lot from and shaped a lot of my own research article.I am now working full time as a paediatric OT within a school setting and I volunteer as a governor in a college for adults with learning disabilities.

I feel human relationships and sexuality are a big part of everyday occupation as in life we make/maintain a multi-tude of relationships. Throughout, my research project I came across many journal articles around the topic of romance/sexulaty
and occupations. One written from OT persepctive was of particular interest and I feel it would be interesting to explore the article as a group of OTs. I am hoping to encourage OTs to freely and openly talk about sex, relationships and sexual occupations as sometimes this can be challenging.


White, E., Barnitt, R. (2000) Empowered or Discouraged? A Study of People with Learning Disabilities and their Experience of Engaging in Intimate Relationships. British Journal of Occupational Therapy. 63 (6) 270-276.


Vulnerable people constitute the majority of referrals to occupational therapy services, due to age and social, psychological and economic circumstances. People with learning disabilities may fit all these categories. An argument has been put that vulnerable people should not be subjects in research (de Raeve 1994) and that there may be unacceptable risks in being a subject in a socially sensitive research project (Barnitt and Partridge 1999). However, avoiding research with people with learning disabilities would mean that the voice of these clients would not be heard and it is known that they have expressed the wish to be consulted and involved in research (Atkinson 1989).

A collaborative study was carried out with eight adults with learning disabilities who lived in a community residential home. Interviews were completed which dealt with aspects of intimate relationships. Three themes emerged from the interviews: the experience of intimate relationships, the future of a current relationship and the involvement of others in relationships. The findings showed that the people interviewed had a generally positive experience of such relationships. However, while the attitudes of staff and family towards intimate relationships were mostly empowering, some negative views still existed. The results have implications for occupational therapists working with people with learning disabilities.

Discussion points for #OTalk:

• Was having service user’s as subjects in the research effective? Do you feel the needs of the subjects/participants were met throughout the research process? (participants)

• Sexual activity is discussed. As an OT, do you regard sexual activity as an occupation? Do OTs have a role in facilitating sexual needs and relationships? Positives and negatives? (OT & sex)

• Was the research method (semi-structured interviews) effective in meeting the aims of the research? E.g. to establish if service users can be ‘subjects of research’ and discuss relationships. What about the structure of the questions? Appropriate/in-appropriate? (research structure)

• Final paragraph “findings have implications for OT practice and research p275” Is this sufficient information? Has/will reading this journal impact your OT practice in anyway? Positives/highlighted areas for development. (future practice)

• What is your take-away message from the journal and / or discussion?

If there are any other items you would like to include in the discussion please let me know.

Please note that the article chosen is not open source. Please be aware of copyright law.

Details and download of the Reading Record can be found on the Journal (Media) Club Resources page.

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