Addressing sexuality and intimacy in substance recovery: an exploration of client and professional attitudes

In order to increase our understanding of what factors to include in substance recovery programs, the following relationships were examined in clients: prevalence of sexual concerns, fears of intimacy, time in recovery, relationship status and one’s desire to receive information regarding sexual health and intimacy education in recovery. The attitudes of professionals and paraprofessionals working in the substance abuse field toward the inclusion of sexuality and intimacy interventions in substance recovery programs were also explored. Thirty participants in recovery for a substance use disorder completed a series of surveys and 15 providers working in the field of substance abuse also participated. A significant positive relationship was found between participant sexual concerns and fears of intimacy. Clients were found to have a strong desire to receive more information about intimate partner relationships. Providers, in general, reported a strong desire to deliver more information about sexual health and intimate partner relationships in their work in the substance abuse field. On the other hand, these data support the belief that there is a culture within the substance abuse field that those in recovery should either abstain from intimate partner relationships during their treatment or that such information might be a distraction. These data also reinforce the limited research suggesting that incorporating the areas of sexual health and intimacy in substance abuse treatment is important.