Non-monogamous relationships have undeniably become more visible recently. From television and movies beginning to feature non-monogamous characters, to social media accounts specifically speaking to different relationship structures, the conversation about options beyond monogamy has become increasingly common and normalized.
Despite growing awareness and acceptance of relationships outside of monogamy, we are still often confronted with skepticism, moral judgment, and the belief that only monogamous relationships are valid. Unfortunately, these ideas can and do show up among therapists as well.
There can be a world of difference between working with a therapist who merely tolerates or acknowledges the range of relationship structures, and one who is truly affirming, making it all the more essential to find someone who will be supportive of your choices.
Polyamory and Other Non-Monogamous Relationships
For the uninitiated, non-monogamy is an umbrella term that refers to having relationships with more than one person. These relationships may be anonymous, long-standing, physical, sexual, emotional, romantic, and more. Polyamory, referring to romantic or emotional relationships with more than one person, is just one example and can look many different ways depending on the people involved.
It’s key to find a therapist who recognizes the value of various relationship styles and will be supportive of your choices.
Why Is Seeking a Therapist Affirming of Polyamory a Good Idea?
Although non-monogamous relationships can be immensely fulfilling, they can also come with unique challenges. Therapy is an opportunity to reflect on these challenges and your relationships, in addition to concerns unrelated to non-monogamy, in a safer space with someone dedicated to centering you and your experiences.
There can be a world of difference between working with a therapist who merely tolerates or acknowledges the range of relationship structures, and one who is truly affirming.
Creating this space is in part contingent on working with someone who recognizes the value of various relationship styles and will not try to discourage or pathologize you for choosing something other than monogamy.
I’m Daniel Rich, a licensed sex-positive psychotherapist, and one of my specialties is working with non-monogamous individuals, whether they’ve only recently become curious about expanding their relationships or have years of experience. I believe the most valid relationship style and structure is the one that is fulfilling and supportive for you.
A therapist affirming of polyamory and non-monogamy can offer support in navigating:
Openly discussing the boundaries you and your partners want to set for your relationships can be an important ingredient for success, as is regularly revisiting these boundaries to ensure they are still working well for everyone involved. Those who are new to non-monogamy, are thinking of forming new partnerships, or are interested in changing their relationship dynamics may benefit from discussing these topics with a therapist.
Therapy provides the opportunity to reflect on and work through challenges in your relationships such as boundary setting.
When feelings of jealousy surface in non-monogamous relationships it can be a bit unnerving or confusing, with thoughts of “It’s not supported to be this way!” being common. After all, aren’t non-monogamous folks “supposed to” be more open? Jealousy is a normal emotional experience, though, and can be an indication there may be unmet wants or needs in a relationship. Therapy can help normalize this experience, unpack where the feeling is coming from, and what to do about it.
The most valid relationship style and structure is the one that is fulfilling and supportive for you.
There is a joke that instead of having more sex than monogamous people (as is the stereotype), polyamorous people have a lot more conversations – and it’s true! Conversations around plans, expectations, and boundaries play a role in all relationships, but become particularly important when multiple partners are involved. Most of us aren’t born knowing how to effectively communicate our needs, though, which is where therapy can help. Identifying what we want to say and how we can say it can go a long way in strengthening our relationships.
Jealousy is a normal emotional experience, and can be an indication there may be unmet wants or needs in a relationship.
Exploring the Self
In addition to those with experience in non-monogamy, therapy can also benefit those who are curious about or new to stepping outside the limits of monogamy. It can be a place for exploring what interests you, any fears or hesitations, and what your ideal relationship situation would be.
How To Choose the Right Polyamory-Affirming Therapist
After deciding you would like to start therapy, finding a therapist who is accessible and a good fit can be a daunting task. This is especially true when looking for a therapist who will be affirming of the relationships you’ve chosen. So, how to find the right therapist for you?
Online Searches and Directories
At Clarity Therapy, we offer a free and confidential therapist matching questionnaire that will connect you with therapists based on your needs and preferences. All our therapists offer free phone consultations so you have an opportunity to connect with them before committing to therapy.
A great first step in looking for a therapist can be using online directories that allow you to search by keyword or offer various search filters, such as Psychology Today, Manhattan Alternative, and Inclusive Therapists. Therapist profiles typically include information like their education, experience, and areas of focus. Experience with sex therapy, relationship counseling, or working with the LGBTQIA+ community is often a good sign that a therapist will be knowledgeable and affirming of non-monogamous relationships.
You can also do an online for “polyamory therapist,” “non-monogamy therapist,” etc. + your city or zip code.
Therapy can be a great place for exploring what interests you, any fears or hesitations, and what your ideal relationship situation would be.
Questions to Ask when Looking for a Polyamory-Affirming Therapist
Once you have a few potential therapists in mind, schedule a consultation with them to make sure you’re a good fit and ask any questions you might have. Potential questions to help determine if someone will be affirming of non-monogamy might include:
How much do you know about non-monogamy or polyamory?
What are your thoughts on non-monogamous relationships?
What is your experience working with clients in non-monogamous relationships?
Do you have any personal experience with non-monogamy? (not all therapists will be comfortable answering this question, which is ok! therapists have boundaries too)
Choose the One You Trust
Research has consistently shown that the most important factor in determining the outcome of therapy isn’t the therapeutic style, experience level, or background of the therapist, but rather the relationship between client and therapist. Choose the therapist that feels safe, trustworthy, and helps you feel understood.
If you’re in a polyamorous relationship or are exploring non-monogamy, our qualified team of therapists can help you navigate your relationship style. Whenever you’re ready to take the next step, reach out and share your preferences on our therapist matching questionnaire so that we can make personalized recommendations. We would love to hear from you.
Your Turn: What’s important to you in a therapist when considering your relationship style? What’s your experience been like in your search for a supportive therapist? Sound off in the comments below.