Document Type

Student Research Paper


Spring 2021

Academic Department

Occupational Therapy

Faculty Advisor(s)

Dr. Gina Fox


Intimacy and romantic relationships are an integral component of an individual, providing love and support through one’s lifetime and increasing life satisfaction and well-being. However, individuals who live with a spinal cord injury (SCI) experience relationships and intimacy differently than the rest of the population. Being paralyzed after any injury can affect the individual’s self-esteem, making the individual feel unattractive and self-conscious. Current literature suggests a variety of client reported barriers to engaging in romantic relationships after SCI such as decreased self-esteem, negative body image, and lack of support and education; however, there is limited research regarding the lived experiences of individuals with SCI regarding intimacy. Having a better understanding of the personal perspectives of individuals with SCI related to engaging in intimacy and romantic relationships will help occupational therapists to better address their clients’ needs after SCI. This study addressed the following research questions: 1) What are the personal experiences of individuals with SCI engaging in romantic relationships? 2) What are the reported facilitators and barriers of engaging in romantic relationships for individuals with SCI? And 3) How do individuals with SCI think that occupational therapy can better support their engagement in romantic relationships? This project was completed using a phenomenological approach and semi-structured interviews, which were transcribed and analyzed for common themes.


Honors Senior Thesis; Honors in the Discipline; OT 494 Undergraduate Scholarship Practicum II