The first time I tried counselling was at the end of my first year of uni. Some difficult stuff had happened including the breakdown of a not-very-nice relationship, and I decided it was time to see about putting some things to rest. So I took a deep breath, and did something I find very difficult to do – asked for help I knew I needed. I went to student services at uni and asked them to sign me up for counselling.
I had to wait a little while, but eventually I was offered an appointment. I was given a male counsellor, which wasn’t ideal especially given the nature of some of the things I wanted to discuss, but I decided to give it a go and see how things went.
I went to my first appointment… and didn’t go back.
Why? Because he was a biphobic, polyphobic jerk. I mentioned polyamory as background information, because various partners, metamours and ex-partners were involved in the things we were talking about. I also mentioned my less-than-shiny childhood and the horrible bullying I suffered for years.
He took all this in, then proceeded to essentially inform me that identifying as bisexual and polyamorous was clearly a symptom of my dysfunctional past, characterised by a deep need to have lots of people in love with me because I was so screwed up from past traumas. Try though I did to explain that being poly wasn’t the problem, he got stuck on it and couldn’t move past that.
I left the appointment shaking, both angry and hurt, called Nomad, and burst into tears telling him about it. I cancelled the next appointment, and the rest of the scheduled sessions. I couldn’t bear to go through that again. I decided coping with my stuff on my own was better.
Which I did, for a while – but then at the end of my second year, it became apparent I still needed some help in dealing with things. I was really afraid of therapy after the above experience, but I decided to give it one more go. Nervously, I signed up. This time I got an appointment pretty quickly.
And the therapist I had was….. amazing. She let me explain polyamory as necessary background information, clarified who was who, and then moved on to the stuff I actually wanted to talk about. From then on it was referred to when necessary, and she was always very respectful, referring to people in my life in the same ways I did. Even small things such as saying ‘your partners’ made a really big difference.
I have somebody else now, because Amazing Counsellor unfortunately left, and she’s been great too. She had never come across poly before but has just taken it on board and been completely fine with it.
So if you have a bad experience, don’t let it put you off, but also don’t keep trying with a therapist you can’t get on with. It won’t work.
Incidentally, no, I didn’t report the jerk’s behaviour towards me. Perhaps I should have, but I wasn’t in any headspace to do so at the time.
What about you, lovely readers? Any experiences with polyamory in therapy or counselling that you’d like to share, whether positive or negative? How have you found mental health or therapy services in relation to non-monogamy?