Polyamorous Clients in Therapy: What You Didn’t Know You Needed to Know - The Affirmative Couch

Polyamorous Clients in Therapy: What You Didn’t Know You Needed to Know

Presenter/Instructor: Stephanie M. Sullivan, M.S., LLMFT 

3 CEs available

Abstract: Consensual non-monogamy is a relationship style in which all individuals within the relationship agree to not being monogamous, and all individuals involved in the relationship are aware that it is not a monogamous relationship. Polyamory is a type of consensual non-monogamy in which people are able to be in committed, long term, intimate relationships with more than one person. An estimated 4-5 percent of the American population openly reports being involved in a consensual non-monogamous relationship – though this number is still fluctuating and difficult to determine (Moors, Conley, Edelstein, and Chopkin, 2015; Winston, 2017). Of this, Sheff (2014) estimates that somewhere between 1.2 million and 9.8 million people in the United States are polyamorous. Despite these numbers, many mental health clinicians are unaware of how to work with consensually non-monogamous clients. This gap in knowledge has led to creating psychological distress for polyamorous clients due to marginalization, discrimination, and pathologizing their chosen relationship style. There have been multiple calls for awareness by mental health providers in recent years, asking for more trainings on working with polyamorous clients to help this group become more accepted and understood in therapy (Anapol, 2010; Graham, 2014; Williams & Prior, 2015). Polyamorous people face a culture of mononormativity, in which monogamy is assumed to be the default, “normal,” and most “ideal” relationship style, but clinicians can assist in dealing with this minority stressor.

This course will train mental health professionals to provide more inclusive and culturally sensitive services to their polyamorous clients by educating them about the nuances of working with polyamorous clients in a therapeutic environment. The course will begin with a basic overview of minority stress theory and terminology for therapists to understand the diversity within relationship structures. The presenter will teach therapists to work with various clinical issues related to polyamory, such as creating relationship agreements, navigating jealousy, and developing healthy, ethical relationships. Abuse as it may present in polyamorous relationships will also be covered. The effects of mononormativity on both the client and therapist will also be examined. The course will discuss compersion, which is generally considered the “opposite” of jealousy – when a person feels joy over their partner also experiencing joy. Vignettes will be utilized to further deepen understanding of clinical work.

This course is meant for intermediate audiences. 

After completion of this course, participants should be able to:

  • Describe at least 2 ways minority stress affects polyamorous clients
  • Differentiate between hierarchical and nonhierarchical types of polyamorous relationships
  • List at least 2 unique forms of abuse that may occur within polyamorous contexts
  • Describe at least 2 interventions therapists can use to help clients struggling with jealousy develop compersion

After watching the video for each section, you will be able to mark it as "complete" and continue to the next section. There is a quiz at the end consisting of 24 questions. You must answer 18 correctly for a passing grade and to receive your certificate. You can retake the test multiple times. 

Stephanie M. Sullivan, M.S., LLMFT – Stephanie M. Sullivan is a Limited Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at A Compass Within Personal Consulting in Rochester, MI.


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Licensed therapists who work in nonprofits price is $60. (Enter code npocoupon at checkout)

Student/unlicensed price is $30. (Enter code plcoupon at checkout)

You can also get access to this course and all other courses – current and future – with the Lifetime Membership for a one-time fee. 

What are people saying about the course:

  • This was a fantastic intro course to polyamory! I learned a ton!
  • Really enjoyed it. The information on terminology was very helpful and helped me learn a lot. The focus on managing jealousy was VERY helpful even for clients not in polyamorous relationships.
  • Almost everything I learned was new which is great. They do not teach this in graduate school and because I want to specialize in relationships, it is important that I know how to address the unique stressors that this population encounters.
  • I hope to be more affirming of CNM, I feel that I still need to do work behind the scenes to be able to really support clients in navigating a CNM relationship. But this was a great intro and is a great start.
  • This course expanded my knowledge of polyamory extensively. I feel much more competent, as a clinician, that I will be able to provide a safe and open space for my clients in consensual non-monogamous relationships.

APA Approved
The Affirmative Couch, LLC is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The Affirmative Couch, LLC maintains responsibility for this program and its content.

Module 1 Part 1
Unit 1 Introduction to Polyamory Affirmative Therapy
Unit 2 Relationship Structures
Unit 3 Boundaries, Rules and Agreements
Unit 4 Abusive Behaviors
Unit 5 Jealousy
Unit 6 End Comparison and Conclusion
Unit 7 Course Survey
Affirmative Couch Training for Therapists