Atlanta Polyamory Therapist
Are you looking for a therapist who honors you relationship structure? Does your preference for a relationship fall outside the conventional monogamous relationship? Are you actively in an open marriage or simply interested in exploring ethical non monogamy?
Not only can therapy provide a venue to process your needs, feelings, and boundaries to create a healthy polyamorous experience, but it can also help process past trauma or current jealousy that can occur in a polyamory.
First, we will dive into what non-monogamy and polyamory entails and we how we approach working with polyamorous clients. Next, we look at how a polyamorist therapist can help and where to find more resources for your non monogamous relationship.
What are open relationships, polyamory and non-monogamy?
We believe the more important question is how do you define polyamory or non-monogamy? Traditionally speaking, non-monogamy is the umbrella term for many types of open relationships.
Polyamory is a specific type of open-relationship. In the deliciously informative novel Opening Up written by Tristan Taormino, she describes that people who practice ethical non-monogamy all begin with a similar ideology of one partner in a marriage or partnership cannot meet every need. The overall idea is that an individual can connect with more than one person. This connection may be spiritual, emotional, mental, physical, or sexually. Or all of the above.
Persons who practice polyamory chose to have relationships with more emotional intimacy over just casual connections with more than one person. People who practice consensual non monogamy want the autonomy to have relationships with multiple people. Polyamorous and non-monogamous persons believe in sharing their love, affections, and connections with more than one person. They believe connections are limitless, and each connection is unique than the others.
Although a non monogamous relationship can be rewarding and satisfying, many components of structuring your relationships and connections require communication, navigating boundaries, limitations, and needs. If you are new or have been practicing polyamory or ethical non-monogamy, a therapist is an asset to help you or your partner(s) navigate how to approach these structures the way you desire for all parties involved.
Our approach to polyamorous relationship counseling in Atlanta
We understand that not all persons are alike or "cookie cutter." We use a systems theory approach in conjunction with other evidence based approaches such as Solution Focused Therapy, Emotionally Focused Therapy, and Narrative Therapy.
As systems therapists, we see clients as parts in various systems whether this is a traditional primary relationship, a polyamorous relationship, a family of origin, a chosen family, a work family, or family. We also value understanding how our clients approach life and relationships, and we value learning about our clients' unique relationship structures. If you are new to polyamory and consensual non-monogamy, we also value providing knowledge and resources to improve your relationship satisfaction.
The first step in therapy is completing an assessment where we discuss why you’re seeking therapy and what change could remove this concern. As a systems therapist, we don’t see people as problems; we see patterns that aren’t working and explore where change can occur to change patterns. We then discuss and create manageable goals to work toward this desired change.
Secondly, we want to learn more about how you view or define open relationsips and/or polyamory. For those new to polyamory and non-monogamy, we’ll talk about what you have already learned, how you may be implementing this into your lifestyle and relationship(s), and how accepting others are of your chosen lifestyle and relationship structure. Often, we use valuable resources such as Elisabeth Sheff’s article, “7 Different Kinds of Non-Monogamies,” to create conversation around different structures and find what resonates most with a client(s).
Although we can work with multiple partners in the room (and we have!), most of the time only two or three partners attend relationship therapy. Some mental health professionals are trained to only “see” the persons who are present; systems therapists are trained to see all partners whether they are physically present or not. A part of our assessment phase is also getting to know your partners who aren’t present and discussing their roles as parts when helping you work through current struggles.
How our poly-friendly therapists in Atlanta can help
In addition to better understanding the different types of non-monogamy including polyamory, our therapists can help with various areas of concern that often occur in open relationships and polyamorous relationships. A few of these areas are emotional regulation when emotions become too intense, communication to improve relationship satisfaction, and as a sounding board to hear you out.
Have you ever noticed a moment when your reaction seemed out of place for the situation? Or, has a partner ever said something like, "Why are you getting all worked up over this?" Our brains play a big role in how we experience love and relationships; at times, your brain can get out of tune like a piano.
A big part of therapy is not only helping you learn how to calm your brain which will help you regulate your emotions, but it also helps understand where this dysregulation stems with the goal to help you better regulate in future instances.
If you ask any non monogamous person, "what is the number one thing to help enjoy a non monogamous lifestyle," "communication" will be in the top three answers. When multiple people are engaged in anything shared, whether it be a sport, work project, or household, there must be clear communication around expectations of everyone involved. Before you say, "Well, my partner sucks at communicating," stop and look at it through the lens that you both might communicate differently.
Part of the work as therapist is to help people understand how they communicate verse how others in their lives communicate and to help everyone involved find ways that work for their unique relationship style.
A Sounding Board
Last, but not least, some polyamorous clients seek therapy in order to "vent" to someone who understands their lifestyle and has knowledge, training, and experience helping people solve their problems and find solutions.
There is nothing wrong if you find a therapist for the goal of having an unbiased person to talk things out.
Who our polyamory friendly mental health professionals help
Just like we help our poly clients better understand their preference or desire for polyamory and non-monogamy, we can also you through general relationship and life concerns. This can include relationship style differences, jealousy, general mental health support.
Mateo and Jennifer had been married for ten years when they decided to explore polyamory but keep their relationship as the primary relationship. It turned out that Jennifer desired emotional connections with other partners and Mateo wanted more casual connections with others. Jennifer sharing intimate details with other partners was creating a feeling of disconnect for Mateo.
It's not uncommon for polyamorous people to desire different relationship structures which can create or increase arguments, fighting, and a decline in relationship satisfaction. Partners will often spend hours educating the other on how their relationship style is better which does not often create resolution.
We help clients find an understanding of why each partner desires a different type of relationship and how this can benefit a primary relationship. We also explore ways to negotiate boundaries that meet the needs of all involved and discover how these differences can improve the relationship satisfaction.
General Mental Health Support
At times, many of our poly clients don’t seek our help due to “poly issues,” but for general mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression or general changes with life events.
Flower identified as polyamorous with no primary partner though several casual partners. She was mid-life with teenage children and decided to return to grad school to pursue her dreams of being a nurse. She and her therapist worked on general school-life balance and the anxiety that came with this balance.
Oftentimes, anxiety can cause any person to become unproductive and not set boundaries. This can lead to feelings of depression such as not getting out of bed or being late on tasks and assignments.
Our therapists can assist with finding ways to set boundaries to prevent burnout and incorporate techniques to counteract anxiety and depression such as exercise, mindfulness/grounding, breathing techniques, and creating a schedule or routine that works for you.
For one reason or another, relationships end. When relationships in a poly system end, this can have an impact on all relationships and persons in that system.
Seong’s partner encouraged her to start therapy due to ongoing sadness and lack of motivation after a relationship with a another partner ended. Seong, who identified as solo polyamory, reported a noticeable decline in activities that would normal bring her pleasure. With the support of therapy, Seong was able to process the ending of her relationship and find ways to re-engage with her other relationships.
Frequently asked questions about working with a poly therapist
How can I find poly friendly therapists?
Although resources for poly-friendly therapists and professionals are still growing, we have a few suggestions for how to connect with a poly-affirming therapist.
We often get new polyamorous clients from our current clients. A referral from a client is the best compliment we can ever get!
If you know a polyamorous person in therapy, ask if their therapist is accepting new patients. If you don't want the same therapist as someone you know, see if you can get referrals for another therapist.
Alternatively, if you work with another healthcare provider, such as a primary care doctor or psychiatrist, who is poly-friendly, ask if they have referrals for general mental health services or relationship therapy.
Local Poly Events or Groups
Find some social organizations to get involved in! If you are in the Atlanta area, we recommend Atlanta Poly where you can find social connections and educational events.
They even have a whole web page dedicated to individuals who are looking to explore or even connect with other like-minded individuals in this wondrous community. Not only will you begin to build a social network, but you can also find suggestions for professionals.
There are even local conferences, such as Atlanta Poly Weekend, where polyamorous people, including professionals, share information about all of the delightful components of what polyamory and non-monogamy entails.
These conferences offer a change to meet with some of us and be involved in the community. Networking opportunities are a great way to find a therapist!
How can I get the most out of polyamory therapy?
Come with questions. Come with curiosity. Therapy is an amazing way to bring awareness to yourself, to navigate how you want to structure your life, with your partner, and your other relationships. Awareness of how you want to structure your life and relationships is only the beginning.
Share Your Experiences
Transparency with your experiences, who you are, and what you are looking for in your relationships is essential to begin the therapeutic process. Therapy is a great tool to navigate your needs, your wants, and your boundaries for yourself and your relationships. The only way your therapist will know your truth and your experience is for you to share.
Show Up and Be Present
You can get a lot out of your therapeutic experience by showing up ready. What we mean by this is showing up to therapy by having the desire to work on what you bring into the room with our polyamorous therapists.
Just like polyamorous relationships are a two-way street, therapy is also a two-way street. As our client, be ready to do the work that comes with change. Individuals may only have a short amount of time each week with their therapist. The change we collectively create is done in the room, but also outside of the therapy room.
We encourage individuals to do the work in and outside of the therapy room to see the immense amount of benefits a polyamorous therapist can provide. We invite you to be curious, and reflect on your experiences in therapy. Feedback is always encouraged to strengthen the relationship with your polyamorous therapist.
Connect with a polyamory therapist in Atlanta today
You deserve a therapist who is supportive, affirming, and accepting of your polyamorous relationship. Whether you need support working through your own struggles and confusions or need guidance to improve your relationship(s), there is a therapist out there for you!
If you are in the Atlanta area or within the state of Georgia, you can find a therapist at Atlanta Therapeutic Collective, which is a private practice with locations in Decatur and Marietta, that offers services with poly affirming and poly knowledgeable therapists. We can also provide a treatment team approach to work with various parts of your poly-system for even more enhanced life and relationship satisfaction.
Contributions provided by Courtney Geter, MFT, LMFT-S, CST-S and Allie Argue, BS, MFT Intern.