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Speaking with Dr. Sakshi Tickoo

Dr. Sakshi Tickoo is a brown, queer person smiling against a pink background

At our July education event, Dr. Sakshi Tickoo will teach on the intersection of kink and chronic illness/pain. We spoke with Dr. Tickoo about her passion for this topic and her work as a sexologist and occupational therapist.

Speaker Interview

Why is the topic of kink and chronic illness/pain important to you?

As a person living with invisible disabilities, it has always been a challenge to access healthcare services that affirmed my sexuality and understood the complexities of living with chronic pain. Instead of providing me with strategies to navigate my changing body and sexuality, I was always reminded that sexuality should not take precedence over my other health needs or overlooked altogether. Now, as an occupational therapist I want to utilise these personal experiences and professional privilege to change how we envision sexuality and change this for my clients. I hope to create an environment where discussions about sexuality are integrated into overall health strategies, empowering clients to express their sexuality confidently and comfortably, despite their abilities and disabilities. This approach is not only about providing better care but also about challenging and changing the broader healthcare perspective on sexuality and disability. Hopefully, these efforts will create trauma-informed and sexuality-affirming healthcare spaces where in the future people like me feel do not feel ashamed or fearful for seeking help for their concerns.

What is one thing you would like mental health professionals to know about this topic?

There are various reasons why people living with chronic illness or pain might choose to engage in kink. Healthcare professionals often hyperfocus on understanding the “why” behind engagement in kink practices rather than providing kink-affirming care. Whether kink serves as a coping mechanism or a form of expression, mental health professionals should aim to support, not “fix,” their client’s engagement. They play a crucial role in challenging the idea that people with chronic illnesses, pain, or disabilities are not sexual beings. By challenging assumptions that all their pain results from engagement in kink or their diagnosis, we must empower these individuals, giving them the autonomy to express their sexuality in ways that are pleasurable and fulfilling.

How do you imagine the world would be different if more clinicians were knowledgeable on this topic?

Pain and disability do not discriminate; they can touch any of us, regardless of our occupation, lifestyle, or background. Everyone, at some point in their lives, will experience some form of pain or disability. This is not just a distant possibility but a near certainty. If healthcare professionals think this lack of inclusion doesn’t concern them professionally, they should consider how it might affect them personally.

As individuals, we might not always anticipate the ways our lives can change. Therefore, this realization should motivate us to advocate for and implement comprehensive changes in mental healthcare approaches and interventions. By working together to improve mental healthcare, we can create a system that is more responsive and inclusive. These changes can ensure that, as our bodies and needs evolve, we all have access to the necessary support and resources. An inclusive mental healthcare system does more than treat conditions; it fosters a sense of security and belonging. By making thoughtful, collective changes today, we pave the way for a more accessible and compassionate tomorrow, ensuring that we all can live our lives to the fullest, regardless of the challenges we may face

Dr. Sakshi Tickoo will be presenting “Balancing Pleasure with Pain: Exploring Kink Through Chronic Pain and Illness,” on July 26, 2024 via Zoom.

Dr. Sakshi Tickoo (she/her) is a brown, queer occupational therapist and certified counselor specializing in the areas of sexuality, relationships and mental health across a lifespan. She is the founder of Sex, Love, And OT—an inclusive, educational telehealth platform that focuses on sexual rights and liberation through education, centering pleasure, and facilitating freedom of occupational engagement for people of all abilities, expressions, and ethnicities globally.

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