Mindfulness therapy as a means to improve sexual satisfaction in couples with neuromuscular disabilities
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Research regarding sexuality after neuromuscular disabilities has focused on either men or women separately, without considering the couple and how acquiring a disability may influence relationships. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of an 8-week modified mindfulness intervention on sexual satisfaction in couples where one or both partners are living with neuromuscular disability. One couple (male age 42, female age 44) with the female living with neuromuscular disability (relapsing remitting MS, 11 years since diagnosis) participated in the study. The mindfulness intervention was administered to participants via a booklet and the exercises were explained verbally after the baseline interview. The booklet contained a total of eight mindfulness-based exercises for each week of the intervention. The exercises were explained in a step-by-step manner in the booklet. The booklet also included reflection questions at the end of each exercise in order to prompt the couple to journal about their experiences and record how much time they dedicated to that exercise per week. The exercises were carried out at home. The intervention also included a psycho-education session that was offered at week five of the intervention. The psycho-education session aimed to challenge thought patterns and negative beliefs about sex and physical abilities. It also involved a discussion about body-image as it relates to mindfulness. Testing involved a sexual satisfaction questionnaire that was completed by each member of the couple individually at baseline and at the end of the 8-week intervention. II Also, an in-depth semi-structured phenomenological interview of the couple together was conducted at baseline and at the end of the 8-week intervention. The results of this study showed that sexual satisfaction and sexual-self view have improved for the couple as a result of participating in the 8-week mindfulness intervention. In addition, the couple reported an improvement in communication, understanding, and awareness. Sensate focus exercises enhanced intimacy between the couple. Themes such as acceptance and feeling present in the moment were discerned from phenomenological analysis. These findings show promise for mindfulness-based therapies to enhance sexual satisfaction and relationship satisfaction in couples living with neuromuscular disabilities.