The relationship between the work environment and sexual health issues is a taboo topic in the United States and most countries. The employee assistance professional, however, needs a basic understanding of sexual health to address clients' concerns and provide appropriate assessment and referral services.
Consider the following: It is estimated that approximately 3-6 percent of the U.S. population struggles with sexual compulsivity/addiction behavior problems (sash.net). The use of the Internet at work for virtual sex is well documented (Cooper 2002), while the rise of social networking to cope with loneliness highlights the striving for human connection (Hu 2008). One in four women and one in six men report some type of sexual assault in their lifetime (Elliot, Mok and Briere 2004). Meanwhile, the increasing use of erectile dysfunction medications by both men and women underscores the importance of sexual health concerns for clients.
Taken together, these data suggest that sexual health issues are significant. Furthermore, most researchers believe these statistics actually underreport the incidence of sexual health concerns.
When faced with a sexual health issue, accurate conceptualization and awareness are important for appropriate treatment and care. It is not expected that the EA professional will provide these services; however, the quality and effectiveness of any referral can be improved by an awareness and assessment of sexual health issues.
DEFINING AND CREATING SEXUAL HEALTH
The field of sexology has been engaged in an ongoing discussion for the past 25 years to define sexual health (see Edwards 2004). If EA professionals are to conceptualize sexual health, it is important that they have a working understanding and definition of it.
The World Health Organization (2002) published a definition that highlights the multi-dimensional nature of sexual health. Sexual health, according to WHO, is a "... state of physical, emotional, mental and …