Here are several tips that you can use right away. The quotes used for illustration are from professionals who are speaking from their own experience.

Tips for individual discussions

1. Know yourself! As a healthcare professional, you have your own values and standards. Your upbringing also plays a role. That is not a problem. When you are aware of this, you can avoid allowing your personal beliefs influence the discussion. You should also look at what makes you feel uncomfortable and try not to avoid feeling this. (Averill, S., 2010)

2. Most patients say that they prefer the healthcare professional to start talking about sexuality rather than having to raise this themselves. Doctors feel that talking about sex is too intimate. They feel it is something that is too much a part of the patient’s private life. However, patients often do not feel this way. In an American study involving 500 adult patients, 2/3 of the respondents said that they did not start talking about sex as they believed that it would be embarrassing for the doctor to talk about sex. (Marwick, C., 1999)

“People do not often begin to talk spontaneously about sexual health. That is why it is important to find a place for them to start. You can move onto a conversation about sexual health from so many different topics. For instance: housing, friendship, leisure time and life planning.”

“ When you begin to talk about sexual health, you often notice that the other person will tell you about their own situation without any prompting.”

3. Talking about sex is not the same as providing treatment, butabove all, it means listening, offering information and raising awareness. So, you do not need to know everything about sexuality or have a solution for every problem.

h4>"It is a bit of a cliché, but above all else, patients often need someone to listen to them. This is much more than something to help them or offering good advice.”."

4. Never judge. Judgements about sex can quickly become hurtful or recriminatory, so be aware of this.

“Accept the person who is sitting in front of you as he or she is, even though he or she has made choices that you would never make.”

5. Create your own glossary of words which are easy to understand and which you feel comfortable with. You can use the dictionary on zanzu.be for this.

“Of course it helps that I am of North-African origin as this means that I am fully aware of which words can be interpreted incorrectly by my Moroccan clients or which could even be threatening.;

6. Invite your client to ask questions that they have never previously had the chance to ask. Make it clear to your client that he/she can rely on you for questions about sex. You should look at what is important for your client and put your own interests aside. Do not enter the discussion too quickly. Mention your obligation of professional secrecy.

7. Practice makes perfect. Practice asking questions and practice dealing with the unfamiliar feeling you may have when you ask questions or listen to the answers. (Averill, S)

“It is easier to talk about sexual health than professionals think. We sometimes see obstacles that do not actually exist.”

Tips for group discussions

1. Fundamentally,there are no great differences in talking about sex in a multicultural group or in a “white/Flemish” group. At the beginning, it is a little embarrassing for people from any culture to talk about sex. When the subject is sexuality, people from different cultures have a great deal in common. It is always better to start from this common basis rather than from cultural differences.

“I actually treat a lesson in relationships and sexual education for a multicultural group in the same way as I do for a non-multicultural group. In both groups, the most important thing is that the participants feel safe and that you use methods that encourage participation.”

2. Provide a safe environment and in particular, make appointments. You can use the PICKASOLL method for this.

3. Create your own language for talking about sexuality and relationships. You can use the dictionary on zanzu.be to create your own list of words.

“There is an art to talking normally and naturally about sexuality in a group, in the same way that you might talk about healthy eating, for example.”

“It is important that you look for a common language when talking about this theme. Maybe the participants do not understand the word “penis”, but do understand the word “dick”. Teach them the socially acceptable word so that they can use this at the appropriate times.”

4. Avoid general discussions about cultural differences. This often has the effect of giving participants the feeling that they have to defend their culture. This leads to participants becoming distracted from what they themselves feel and from the questions that they have. It means that a group discussion about sexuality can be a missed opportunity. An open discussion about personal experiences can work well. When you do this, you can ask questions such as “What’s that like for you? How did you get information when you were a child? How did you discuss this in your family?”.

5. People who have a more community-oriented cultural background will more sooner use the “we” form of talking. For instance, “we think that virginity is important” You can extend the questions by asking how they deal with this themselves rather than asking what they think about this now.

6. Hold a discussion with the group but put your own personal experiences, examples and opinions aside, wherever possible.

“As an education worker, you create the safe framework in which people can firstly learn from each other. This is known as “holding the container”. I think that if you start to talk about your own life, then you risk leaving that role. That is why I am I quite careful about this.”

7. Make use of the group, as participants learn more from each other than from a counsellor. Use interactive methodology such as “Between the sheets”“the lucky dip bag” (bag filled with contraceptives) and quizzes

“Are you holding an education session or discussion about sexuality? It’s difficult the first time around but then it really becomes fun.”

8. Give participants the chance to individually ask personal questions, for instance during a break or at the end.

“It’s important to leave time after an education session for individual and personal questions as a session on sexual health can raise many questions.”

Dictionary and translations

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