Gary Karp allowed Rolling Inspiration to share his deepest thoughts on sexuality with you. Those articles were taken from his 2006 book, Disability and the Art of Kissing, Questions and Answers on the True Nature of Intimacy. But all good things must come to an end and so we looked around for someone who would understand the ins and outs of sexuality from a uniquely South African point of view. We are pleased to introduce our new, home-grown sexologist, Willem Stiglingh.For nine years now I have been actively involved in the rehabilitation process of people with disabilities. The main field of my interest is working with persons living with spinal cord injury but I also work with post CVI (stroke) persons, traumatic brain injuries and traumatic amputees.
My background is psychology and I am a registered psychological counselor in private practice. I did my internship at Kalafong Hospital, Pretoria, followed by several years at Pretoria Academic hospital and I am still at Tshwane rehab on a part-time basis. I am based at Muelmed Rehab in Pretoria where I am a proud member of a very capable and efficient multi-disciplinary rehab team consisting of 37 clinicians and therapists.
The main focus of my work as part of the rehab team is two pronged. I am a trauma practitioner dealing specifically with brief, early intervention after traumatic events such as robberies, rape, hijackings and violent attacks. My other, equally important, function is the rehabilitation of sexual function in persons living with disability. I work with both males and females of all ages, cultures and persuasions who live with disability.
Very often, even with a sex therapist present in the rehab environment, sexuality ranks very low on the list of priorities where activities of daily life and mobility take preference.
In the South African environment a glaring deficiency in the rehab process of persons living with disability is the availability of trained therapists who deal specifically with issues around sexuality. As a result of this patients in the rehab environment often, out of frustration and desperation, direct their fears, concerns and questions about their sexuality to any member of the rehab team.
These questions about sexuality often land in the lap (no pun intended) of young and, sometimes, single physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, speechies or nursing staff who find it embarrassing and difficult to provide satisfactory answers.
This creates a situation where disabled persons often leave the rehab environment with many unaddressed questions, fears and anxieties about their ability to function again on an intimate level.
It therefore becomes very important for the therapist dealing with sexual rehabilitation to have his or her timing right and to start the intervention on sexuality at the right time in the rehab period and to ensure that lines of communication remain open after discharge to do follow-up where and when necessary.
I have often found that, despite ground work being done during rehab, the real problems and concerns around sexual function only crop up after discharge. It becomes vitally important then that lines of communication remain open so any questions or concerns can be addressed.
Rolling Inspiration has been making a major contribution in addressing this problem via the sexuality column by providing answers to readers’ questions and concerns on matters of intimacy and sexuality. It is therefore a great privilege for me to join this team and I welcome readers to write in and ask those burning questions they have not been able to ask.
So come on LET’S GET IT ON!