Polyamorous Clients in Therapy:
What You Didn’t Know You Needed to Know
3-hour course (2 hours 38 minutes video + post test & evaluation)
Presented By: Stephanie Sullivan, LLMFT
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).
This course will train mental health professionals to provide more inclusive and culturally sensitive services to their polyamorous clients by educating mental health clinicians 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. 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. 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. 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.
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
For special student/pre-licensed pricing, please contact us.