Q&A: Educational Resources on Poly, for Therapists

Capital Letter In the course of life, many people will eventually have need of finding a professional to help them with various emotional or mental health issues.  Because of the societal bias in favor of monogamy, those in polyamorous relationships or other forms of consensual non-monogamy often report that — depending in part on the area of the country in which they reside —  it’s difficult or impossible to find a qualified therapist who even understands about polyamory, let alone treats this relationship choice as a valid and potentially healthy option for relating.

Rubin and Adams (1978) “found that among those clients who had a sexually open marriage and sought therapy, 27% indicated that their therapists were nonsupportive of their nonmonogamous relationship. … Knapp (1975) noted that “the three greatest fears facing prospective alternative lifestyle clients were: therapists’ condemnation of their lifestyle, pressure to return to a ‘healthier’ form of marriage, and being diagnosed in terms of psychopathology” ([2] pp 15-16.)

As a result of this bias, many people end up needing to educate their therapist on this topic before they can begin to get help with their issues.  The good news is that more and more therapists — especially those in major metropolitan areas — now have some understanding of and support or at least neutrality toward the polyamorous relationship structure.

A surprising 16% were described as positive, with 21% described as neutral. Over one-fourth of the polyamorists polled, however, have declined to “come out” to their therapists ([2], p. 16.)

That said, these therapists need to get the information somewhere, and it’s still a sufficiently controversial enough relationship choice that it mostly isn’t being presented as a healthy option in the schools where therapists receive training.  The better news is that there are now some good print resources available for clients to bring to their therapists, and/or for therapists to use to educate themselves.

The question that spurred this post (from the Poly Leadership Network email list) and my answering list is below, for those looking for such educational resources.

(BTW: If you’re just starting this process and you’re looking for a counselor whom you don’t have to educate, you can find some useful links to explore in my Resources for Polyamorous and Other Relationships. If you don’t need a therapist per se, we can also set up a free mini-session for you to figure out if my style of counseling is a good fit for you.  You can find out more about me here, and more about what services I offer here. Let’s talk!)

Has anybody put together a training for therapists and such on alternative relationship styles [such as polyamory]?

Capital Letter A As far as I know, a specific “training” has not been created, but there are a number of good print resources at this point.

  1. Here’s what Charlie Glickman — a wonderful and well-informed adult sexuality educator in San Francisco —  has to say:
  2. NSCF (the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom) on their KAP page (Kink Aware Professionals) hosts an excellent brochure on this topic (NOTE: [3] and [4] were both incorporated into this updated resource, along with some other information):
  3. Geri Weitzman’s earlier paper on this area (Dr. Weitzman is a licensed psychologist in the SF Bay Area):
  4. and Joy Davidson’s older paper on working with poly clients (Dr. Davidson is a psychologist and AASECT-certified sex therapist in New York City):

Hope this is helpful,

~♥ Dawn

One thought on “Q&A: Educational Resources on Poly, for Therapists

  1. Karin Wandrei, PhD, LCSW

    Hi. I have developed a specific two hour training on Open Relationships: What Every Psychotherapist Needs to Know. It is aimed primarily at non-poly therapists. I can be reached at 707-304-4245. I am a licensed clinical social worker in Sonoma County in northern California and also do online therapy with clients in California and consultations with people in Calaifornia and elsewhere.


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