Poly therapy today:
An interview, and more
Ten years ago therapists and counselors with any grasp of polyamory were mostly limited to the handful in the back of Loving More magazine. If you or your polyfamily was looking for one, you were probably out of luck. Now it's easier to find them, or at least to find therapists who know enough that you don't have to spend your first sessions paying $125 an hour to educate them.
And if your prospective shrink isn't up to speed, you can now direct them to this 36-page booklet: What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory, so they can learn on their own time.
You can also refer them to Kathy Labriola's recent book Love In Abundance: A Counselor's Advice On Open Relationships and her newer The Jealousy Handbook: Exercises and Insights for Managing Open Relationships. Then there's relationship coach Leonie Linssen and Stephan Wik's Love Unlimited: The Joys and Challenges of Open Relationships, a collection of 12 illustrative case histories. And more articles appear all the time in academic journals and professional newsletters. (For example, Clients in Sexually Open Relationships: Considerations for Therapists, by Kevin Zimmerman in the Journal of Feminist Family Therapy, vol. 24, issue 3, July-Sept. 2012.)
It is still hard to get presentation slots for this controversial topic at the meetings of the professional societies, we are told. But at last year's American Psychiatric Association meeting in Philadelphia, a session about poly research to improve clinical care drew a standing-room-only audience and coverage in the local newspaper despite being relegated to an out-of the way corner of the convention center in the last time slot on the last day.
One of the professionals helping to push things forward is Tamara Pincus of the Washington DC area. Yesterday she was interviewed in HuffPost/Women:
The Polyamorist On The Couch: Q & A With Tamara Pincus On What Therapists Should Know About Big Love
By Arin Greenwood
The New York Post says that polyamory is having a fashionable moment.... But if open relationships are becoming more common... Tamara Pincus, a D.C.-based therapist with a practice advertised as "psychotherapy for the open-minded," says there's still a long way to go before polyamory goes fully mainstream.
Pincus, who hosts a monthly discussion group for people who are interested in, as she puts it, "consensual non-monogamous relationships," recently reached out to a group who might not realize they're interested in these relationships: She published a primer on polyamory aimed at clinical social workers.
That paper is behind a paywall, but here's a [brief] paper [she] published earlier in the Greater Washington Society for Clinical Social Work's newsletter [see page 12]....
Why don't we start with you telling me about the paper you wrote — what is it about, and who is it for?
...Currently, there is not a lot out there for social workers about polyamory. A lot of them have never heard of it or think that it only happens when a couple is not doing well but not ready to break up. They don't understand the concept of poly identity and why people choose polyamory aside from a desire to have sex with more than one person.
This can lead to marginalization. A lot of poly clients in therapy don't come out to their therapists, which means they don't work on a lot of the issues that come up. Also often when they do come out they feel judged by their therapists or misunderstood.
Often even the most well-meaning therapists will not understand polyamory, so clients will end up spending their time educating their therapists which is not a service they should necessarily have to pay for....
...What do you want therapists to understand about poly clients?
I want therapists to understand that polyamory is not a sign of an attachment problem or other disorder. I want them to recognize it as a valid relationship choice.
I also want therapists to be versed in basic language about polyamory and basic information about things like how to contract in a non-monogamous relationship, what does consent in a non-monogamous context look like, how poly families work, etc.
I want therapists to understand that polyamory is not damaging for children.
There is a book just coming out by Elisabeth Sheff called The Polyamorists Next Door where she does a study of poly families and learns that in fact polyamory is not bad for children. Eli is not poly herself so this is not just some puff piece by a poly person trying to promote their lifestyle.
I want the community at large to see polyamory as a reasonable and honorable relationship choice. Poly people are often told that what they are doing is too complicated or weird and that it would be better if they just cheated which is just strange to me....
Read on (Dec. 12, 2013).
Some other recent related items:
● At YourTango, a brassy online women's magazine ("your best love life"):
Success with Polyamory and Infidelity; We Could all Learn a Lot
By Tracy Deagan
Ben and Claire came in to therapy with me to work on the common couples issues of not being sexually faithful and jealousy. They were unusual in the manner that they are working on these issues and what they need from a therapist, because Ben and Claire identify as Polyamorous — as does a growing segment of the US population.
...Like many folks that identify as polyamorous, Ben and Claire had talked with two therapists previously that “just did not get it.” They ended up feeling that they were spending their time and money educating their therapist. They described misperceptions regarding polyamory and the people that identify as polyamorous similar to those I hear from even seasoned professionals....
A therapist helping those that choose a polyamorous structure has a responsibility to educate themselves on this structure and to weed out their own fears and prejudices that living in an overwhelmingly monogamous society has given us. The majority of therapists I have trained have a knee jerk “That is just wrong!” reaction to polyamory without doing the research to differentiate it from cheating or really examining what monogamy has engendered in our society....
Read on (July 2, 2013).
● In the Pennsylvania Society for Clinical Social Work's newsletter Clinical Voice, September 2013 issue, Damon Constantinides PhD, LCSW, has an article Supporting Polyamorous Clients against social shaming.
● Therapist Victoria Rose Sturley, in London, puts this up: Free: Open and Awesome Relationships Crash Course.
● Here's my most recent roundup of lots more poly-and-therapy news. And here are all my posts tagged therapy for the last three years (including this one; scroll down).