Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award

2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Elliot Jurist

Second Advisor

Lissa Weinstein

Third Advisor

Tzachi Slonim

Keywords

consensual non-monogamy (CNM), polyamory, open relationships, couples therapy, relationship therapy, commitment, intimacy

Abstract

Despite the growing visibility of consensual non-monogamy culturally and in the academic domain, treatment of CNM relationships has been understudied from the clinical perspective. This study utilized a sample of 11 clinicians, who discussed their experiences of treating non-monogamous couples through a semi-structured interview. Qualitative thematic analysis led to the emergence of robust themes, which were synthesized into three broader categories: 1. Therapeutic Process, 2. Issues in Treatment, and 3. The Meaning of Non-Monogamy. Therapists discussed their own clinical processes, with emphasis on countertransference, frame, self-disclosure, and considerations for training. Themes also emerged surrounding common issues in treatment, ranging from specifics in the process of opening up and creating relationship agreements, to broader realms of fantasy, desire, and connection. The overlap of trauma history with pursuit of CNM was also salient in a majority of interviews, with a focus on emotion regulation as a crucial component in the resulting therapeutic work. Findings also indicate that an important aspect of couples work for CNM relationships is meaning-making, through which couples articulate and create a shared understanding of CNM and its value specifically in the context of their relationship. While internalized mono-normativity and the resulting minority stress experience were relevant factors particular to this relationship work, many of the findings from this study are generalizable to all couples treatments.

Available for download on Wednesday, February 15, 2023

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