Hi and welcome back. My name is Martha Kauppi. I’m an AASECT-certified sex therapist and supervisor and author of this book: Polyamory: A Clinical Toolkit for Therapists (and Their Clients). Today, I am going to talk to you about why I wrote this enormous, 492-page, really fun to read book about polyamory, of all things.
This is why: I noticed that all of the books about relationship therapy and self-help books about relationships had an opinion. If they had any opinion about polyamory, discussed any kind of open relationship at all, the opinion I was reading was “you really have to be in a monogamous relationship to have true intimacy and for your relationship to last. Well, I did a research study in graduate school because my observation from seeing people in open relationships—my brother’s in an open relationship and has been, essentially, his entire adult life—was not that this couldn’t work. In fact, it does work so there was a huge disconnect for me. I couldn’t understand why leaders in the field of relationship therapy would think that polyamory doesn’t work when my eyes were telling me that polyamory can work.
I did a research study about it. I learned a lot about the demographics of people who were in polyamorous relationships at that time, and it was very, very interesting. My study had lots and lots and lots of long-term relationships showing up. It seemed crystal clear to me that not only could polyamorous relationships really stand the test of time, but also that having a second relationship didn’t seem to disrupt the intimacy in the first relationship. I started to think, “You can have deep intimacy, even in an open relationship. What I’m seeing clinically and what I’m seeing in the lives of my friends and family members is real. Polyamory can work.”
I thought, “Gee, therapists really need to get the message about this because they’re not going to be getting it from the people that I was learning therapy from at the time. I started talking about it, thinking about it, developing some materials about it, and teaching about it. Eventually, that grew into a book. As I blogged more about it, did more courses, and did more webinars about it, I started to think, “Gee, people really need an accessible resource.” Therapists really need support for working with marginalized populations that they don’t get enough education about.
If you’re a therapist and you go through a graduate school or a training program to become a therapist, the chances that you’d take a class where somebody really talks about polyamory is a long shot. You might know what it is, you might get it in your diversity class if your program even has a diversity class, but the likelihood that there’s going to be some sort of deep dive into how to work with the challenges related to it, I have not seen that happen much. I think it should be part of every relationship therapy course. I really do. I think that a relationship therapy course developer would do well to really think about what we can learn about making strong relationships and workable relationships from looking at people who have workable polyamory.
It’s an interesting phenomenon that thought leaders in the field of relationship therapy weren’t getting the memo about polyamory working and so they’re disseminating false information. I’m sure they don’t mean to. I’m sure they just don’t know. They haven’t been exposed to it and gee, I wonder why. I wonder why somebody in an open relationship wouldn’t go to those therapists? It seems perfectly clear to me. Instead, they were coming to me because I was like, “Well, what do you want your relationship to look like? Ok, let’s roll up our sleeves and help you have the relationship you want.” I was really interested in helping people achieve their dreams and I had some examples in front of me of polyamory that worked. I was able to say, “Yeah, it does exist in nature. I’ve absolutely seen it so let’s go get it. If you want it, let’s figure out how it works. Let’s figure out how you can get it for your own relationship.”
It turns out that it takes some next-level relationship skills to really thrive in a polyamorous relationship. I want to say that it takes some next-level relationship skills to really thrive in any relationship. I’m not drawing an enormous distinction here according to how many partners you have, but there are a few challenges that come up in polyamrous relationships that are unique to that particular group and the challenges that they face. I definitely cover that in my book.
Another reason that I wrote this book is because I think it’s hard to find a therapist who can work effectively with polyamory. Primarily what I do in my work at this point is train therapists. I do that much more than I see clients. The reason is that I’ve seen so many clients who can’t find a therapist who can help them because of the marginalized group they’re in. I’m sorry, but that’s bullshit. What?! That’s crazy, crazy, crazy talk. I am working for you, the client, who’s looking for a therapist. That’s who I’m working for. That’s a big group of people and I can’t do it hour by hour, sitting in my office. I can’t serve that many people that way. I’m just one person.
That’s why I train therapists: so I can serve all the clients out there, hopefully, and help it be just normal for a therapist to understand how to work with sex issues, how to work with open relationships, and how to work with tough relational challenges. Those are the places that I just love working and those are the places that I love helping therapists improve.
And it’s empowering for everybody, which makes my heart sing. My world goes round because the clients are empowered because they have good therapists and the therapists are empowered because they have good training and I can help them with the challenges they’re facing and let them know how amazing they are and how they can take the next step. We’re all in this together.
If you’d like to check out my book, the links are below. You can buy it from Amazon, you can buy it from an independent bookseller locally here, you can buy it from the publisher, Rowman and Littlefield. It’s on international book markets.
You can also adopt it as a textbook for your relational therapy course because this book has a serious deep-dive into the Developmental Model of relationship therapy which is the model that I use because it incorporates aspects of differentiation, attachment, and neuroscience. I don’t think we can pick or choose between those things: I think we need all of them. This book goes into it, which is what I’m going to talk about in my next video: “What can we all learn from people who are making polyamory work for them about how to make our own relationships work and how to do therapy with relational therapy?”
Thanks for joining me. I’ll see you soon.