Narrative Therapy for Polyamorous Folks

Narrative Therapy for Polyamorous Folks

Image description: A swirl of colour. Text reads: “Relationship therapy for the polyamorous community. Access sliding scale narrative therapy and participate in a practice innovation project. Contact Tiffany Sostar sostarselfcare@gmail.com.”

I’ve spent the last few months talking with folks about what they wish their therapists knew about working with polyamorous individuals and relationships.

I’ve learned that a lot of folks don’t talk about polyamory with their therapists, even when they’re doing relationship therapy!, because of fear of judgement. And I’ve also learned that those fears are sometimes valid, and folks have been met with a lack of awareness, sometimes even judgement, and often a lack of understanding of how intersectional issues like racism, ableism, classism, and sexism can show up in polyamorous relationships.

I’m hoping to change that!

I am hoping to work with polyamorous folks who are either dealing with hard times in their relationships, or have dealt with hard times in the past and want help processing that, or who are opening up their relationship and want support in that process. These narrative therapy sessions will be part of an ongoing “practice innovation project” – a project designed to create a resource that other therapists can learn from and use. I’ll be documenting what works and what doesn’t work in responding to the specific challenges faced by polyamorous folks (including solo poly folks), both within relationships and from outside the relationship in our mono-normative culture.

This process will include the invitation to engage in collaborative work, and any writing that I generate about the process will be shared back with the people who have attended therapy and been part of the process. Your feedback, insight, and critiques are welcome, though not expected, and will be included (with credit) in the final project(s).

You will have access to narrative therapy to help in your polyamorous relationship, and you will also have the opportunity to participate in creating a resource that can help other people.

My office is located in central SW Calgary, Alberta, but I also work remotely via Skype (or other video chat).

To set up an initial chat, send me an email or message, or call/text me at 403-701-1489.

So, what am I hoping to accomplish in this project?

Most importantly, I want to offer some help with the gap in services that polyamorous folks are facing in the city, particularly BIPOC, disabled, trans, and neurodivergent polyamorous folks.

But then, I also want to answer these questions:

How can narrative therapists better serve polyamorous communities?

What narrative practices can help make a difference for polyamorous individuals, groups, and communities?

How can narrative therapy, which already positions people as the experts in their own experience, help strengthen and support polyamorous folks’ existing insider knowledges as they navigate challenges?

I’m interested in this practice innovation project personally, because I am both a narrative therapist and also polyamorous. I’ve been practicing polyamory for ten years in my personal life, and I have made a lot of mistakes along the way. I’ve benefited from the knowledge shared by the wider polyamorous community, and I’m also concerned about some of the narratives that have become the norm within polyamorous “common sense”. I am interested in this project because I want to expand the base of community-generated knowledge that other folks can access and benefit from.

But I’m also interested in it because of the number of folks I’ve worked with who have had poor experiences with relationship therapy because their therapist was either uninformed about polyamory, or had internalized ideas about polyamory that may be inaccurate or harmful.

Some of these ideas might include:

  • Monogamous narratives about polyamorous folks’ “lack of commitment” or “attachment issues”
  • Hostile beliefs about queer or bisexual/pansexual identities, such as the idea that non-monosexuality means folks are sexually deviant, the idea that all bisexual/pansexual/polysexual/two spirit folks are non-monogamous, or the idea that queerness and polyamory mean folks are interested in anyone or predatory in their sexual interests
  • Hostile beliefs about asexual identities, such as the idea that asexuality means folks can’t be polyamorous
  • Deeply individualizing narratives of polyamory that suggest folks have to “own your own feelings” in ways that erase or make invisible the relational context within which those feelings happen
  • A lack of awareness of intersectionality and how it can show up in polyamory; racism, transantagonism, ableism are all issues that can show up in polyamorous relationships
  • Perhaps most commonly within poly-friendly therapists, uncritical acceptance of relationship hierarchies even when these hierarchies are contributing to the poor treatment of ‘secondary’ partners

My goal is to generate a small resource that can help narrative therapists work with polyamorous folks. This is part of my Master of Narrative Therapy and Community Work program, and after this smaller project, I am hoping to develop this work into a book. There is very little writing directed at narrative therapists to help us learn how to work most ethically and effectively with polyamorous folks, and I would like to change that.

I would also like to create a companion resource for polyamorous folks who are looking for relationship therapy – something that can help folks feel more confident about what to ask, what to watch for, and how to engage with their therapist. Too often, the therapist is considered the “expert”, but for marginalized communities, there is often a huge amount of educating that happens. I’d like to create something that can help ease that burden.

So, I’m looking for folks who want to join me in this process!

As always, working with me is available on a no-questions-asked sliding scale.