Counselling/Therapy and Non-Monogamy

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?

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6 thoughts on “Counselling/Therapy and Non-Monogamy

  1. pir says:

    Most people have the same first experience with a therapist/counsellor. Often that experience helps with the definitions and training the next one.

    Later I’ve found that priming people with this helps:
    http://www.ejhs.org/volume5/polyoutline.html

  2. When my now ex-wife and I first went to relationship councillor, the first councillor we went to practically threw us out of her office at the very mention of polyamory. It’s not like she got angry, more like she had a panic attack/emotional breakdown.

    Never did learn any more about that. . .

  3. Greg Korgeski says:

    Nice that you shared that! Ideally, MOST therapists are more like your later ones, though that can’t be guaranteed. Most are trained (and really, naturally inclined) to be more flexible, respectful, and ideally to really understand and empathize with all sorts of lifestyles and relationship choices. It is hard especially when new/seeing your first, though, to not let their comments get under your skin. (Though I doubt there is much to “report” the first one for, other than maybe insensitively applying his own favorite and probably outmoded theory to your situation. Fifty years ago, most therapists would have been trained to think that way, though even then, dumping that on someone first thing would have been an amateur move.)

  4. Glad you found better experiences, sorry the first one was so bad.

  5. Dragonmamma says:

    I suppose that there is always a difficulty when you go to see a therapist that if you say “I am differet and I have this problem” that they will asume that the difference is the problem or the cause of the problem or connected to the problem., mainly through unfamiliarity.
    I read through the references from “pir” above and thought they would be very useful and definitely worth mentioning if you think the therapist is a bit lost..

    Also wanted to say that I am so glad you started this journal. As an ally of polyamory but not a participant, I have found a lot of the articles in here very informative and helpful in undoing some of my unintentional misunderstandings. Keep up the good work!!

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