“Sex and drug taking – I can’t think of two topics more designed to challenge us as clinicians.”
So said Dr Gavin Newby, Clinical Neuropsychologist at Newby Psychology, speaking at the latest Brainwaves free training event which tackled the tricky subject of unwise decision making after a brain injury, particularly decisions relating to sex and drugs.
“Many clients are more than capable of making their own decisions, and possibly unwise ones,” explained Gavin. “We can advise them on safe sex and the consequences of drug taking – but for these clients, essentially it is up to them.”
Severely injured clients
What about people who are more severely injured and where ‘mental capacity’ is not established? Gavin explained further: “Just like anyone else, for our clients their sexual identity and its expression is a fundamental human right. And sometimes drug taking is part of their history, culture, and way of being. We can’t ignore this.”
“Many clients want to have sex under all sorts of interpersonal, legal and illegal circumstances,” he added. “Others will take drugs, even when they know they shouldn’t. The capacity bar is pretty low. Where clients want sex or drugs, our role is to help them, their families and carers manage the risks. It isn’t about eliminating risks, but rather identifying common sense, practical and consistent policies that everyone involved can follow. It may sound boring, and hardly rock ‘n’ roll – but I strongly believe this is the way forward.”
Gavin has over twenty-five years’ experience working with people who have an acquired brain injury (ABI) and their families. During the workshop, he explored a range of complex issues, including sexual capacity, the Sexual Offences Act, case law, and the deprivation of liberty, as well as the importance of considering human needs and freedom of expression. He also examined the impact of the Munby Judgement which promotes balance, and posed the key question – what is the point of being safe if it makes a person miserable?
“This was an extremely interesting workshop and highly relevant to the lives and needs of the clients we work closely with every day,” added Colin Green, Clinical Director at Physio Matters and Brainwaves co-founder. “Gavin skilfully explored some of the very challenging situations people find themselves in and the difficult decisions which they and their carers face following brain injury. It gave everyone attending a greater insight into these important issues and the opportunity to discuss and explore them in more depth.”
The next free Brainwaves event will explore ‘Sport as Rehabilitation’ on Thursday 14 December 2017 from 11:00am – 12:30pm and will be delivered by Disability Snowsports UK (DSUK).
Brainwaves was formed by Louise Sheffield of Active Case Management Ltd and Colin Green of Physio Matters Neurological Ltd and provides interdisciplinary training sessions for professionals working in brain injury rehabilitation.
Open to therapists, case managers, social workers, support workers, lawyers and anyone working in the field of acquired brain injury, Brainwaves shares informal clinical training, without networking and sales pitches. Training covers clinical topics such as HCPC audit process, insight after brain injury, serial casting, hydrotherapy, and many more.
Also follow Brainwaves on Twitter: @brainwavesNW