"A Counselor's First Experience Working with a Poly Family"
A therapist writes about a professional-growth experience, at the website of the (mostly kink-oriented) National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. Excerpts:
Guest blog: A Counselor's First Experience Working with a Poly Family
By Eric Jett, NCC, LPC
...During the first intake, we had gone over the typical counseling questions and discussed the importance of family counseling that we [would] start after a couple of individual sessions between me and their son. Mom and Dad were extremely cordial about the process, extremely concerned about their son, and you could see their investment in helping him grow and survive this situation; yet something was still off. There was something mom and dad were holding back....
...The parents asked me was what I was required to report to the state about child abuse.... My direct approach was to ask “Do you believe your son has been physical, sexually, or emotionally abused in some way?” The mom and dad instantly went to denying any occurrence of abuse, and I admittedly told them I was a little confused about their concern on the child abuse reporting laws for our state.
Dads’ response was, “We are polyamorous.”... For the remainder of the hour, we talked about their amazing family which included six adults, who their son and other 3 children got to refer to as parents. Mom and dad’s greatest fear was that as a professional, this would be reportable....
[In] our next family session all 6 adults attended, and it became very apparent to me as a counselor the opportunities we had to work really as an amazing support structure for this teen and help him through this difficult time of his life.
This [was] my beginning experience working with poly families, which I have continued over the past several years.... However as a counselor it was an important learning experience to remind me of the fear and concern which can often be with individuals because of societal expectations.... This family had lived as a family unit, with their ups and downs like every relationship, for over 20 years before stepping into my office.
...I worked with the family for over a year and during that course of time they educated me on not only their family but resources, books, articles, and even polyamorous meetups in the area with other families and individuals interested in relationships.
...I have been pleased and amazed to be able to present this particular client case to colleagues [who are] in the beginning struggle with the idea of working with a poly family, and often I see skewed views of what this means for the family and children. However, after we talk about and demonstrate the work we were able to do in family therapy and how the family having multiple parents actually strengthened my work with the teen, colleagues often leave with a changed view....
See his whole article (Aug. 30, 2014).
● Remember, if you need to educate a therapist about poly (on their time, not yours), you can point them to the NCSF's 36-page booklet What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory.
● Here's a one-page version at GoodTherapy.org (last updated May 2014).
● If you're looking for a poly-aware therapist or coach, one place you can start is at Tristan Taormino's Open List, organized by state and internationally, on the website of her book Opening Up. It also links to other lists. If you're a professional who should be on this list, it tells at the bottom how to get on.
● Check the NCSF's famous Kink-Aware Professionals (KAP) directory, which also includes doctors, lawyers, and others.
● And the long-running Poly Friendly Professionals directory at polychromatic.com is finally back up again (after being down due to a corrupted data file).
On the subject of therapists, last February the Washington Blade (“the newspaper of record for the LGBT community”) interviewed Tamara Pincus, a DC bi and poly awareness activist and community organizer:
Queery: Tamara Pincus
By Joey DiGuglielmo
Tamara Pincus has been out as bi since she was a teen. It took her many more years, though, to embrace her polyamorous side.
She and husband Eric have been married 11 years but she’s also had relationships with women. She also has a partner named James she’s been with two years. Eric has another partner as well.
Pincus, 37, was born in Seattle but grew up in Massachusetts and New York. She’s in private practice as a psychotherapist and sex therapist (tamarapincus.com) and also leads a monthly poly discussion group at the D.C. Center. It usually meets on the third Thursday of each month....
She says the LGBT movement should be open to less “heteronormativity.”
“I understand why the gay marriage movement has tried to make it look like we’re all just like you with two very normal looking white men with this happy little family, but we also need to be accepting of people who are different too,” she says. “You silence a lot of voices when you say, ‘We’re all just like you.’”
Pincus has two sons, ages 5 and 7 and lives in Alexandria. She enjoys board games and spending time with her family in her free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I came out as bi at 16 and as poly three years ago. The hardest people to tell were definitely parents of my kids’ friends, one of whom ran into my husband when he was on a date with someone else. It hasn’t really been hard to tell people I’m bi....
And from there it turns unserious. Read the whole article (Feb. 26, 2014).
Here's an earlier, less frivolous interview with Pincus at HuffPost Women:
The Polyamorist On The Couch: Q&A With Tamara Pincus On What Therapists Should Know About Big Love
...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....
The whole interview (Dec. 12, 2013).