Polyamory: A Toolkit for Therapists (and Their Clients)

By Martha Kauppi

Book Review by Kathy Labriola

Finally someone has written the book that so many therapists have been waiting for and desperately need! Martha Kauppi’s book Polyamory: A Toolkit for Therapists (and Their Clients) is a fantastic resource to help therapists work effectively with clients in all kinds of consensually nonmonogamous (CNM) relationships. But the real winners are the clients. Not only will there be more therapists who are competent to help, a self-help minded polyamorous person experiencing some struggles in their relationships could very easily digest this information and use it as a self-help relationship manual.

After decades of struggling to come up with effective treatment strategies for polyamorous people, therapists now have all the information they need to become competent and confident in working with people in all forms of open relationships. This book should be required reading for every therapist, because it is a crash course in Polyamory 1.0 all the way to Poly 4.0. I hope it will be used as a textbook for therapists in training, as it really takes you through what I have been known to call “poly therapist boot camp.”

The entire book is terrific, but Part Three warrants special mention as it breaks new ground in some areas that I have not seen covered anywhere else. This section presents all of the most common problems that bring polyamorous people to therapy, and outlines strategies for helping clients resolve each one. The first part of this section covers everything from deciding whether to open a monogamous relationship or not, to negotiating agreements and boundaries, to crafting your own very individual model of polyamory, to managing jealousy.

The next chapters in Part Three tackle the very thorny problem of polyamory growing out of a monogamous relationship where one person has cheated. This can and often does cause the demise of the relationship. However, this section of the book presents an excellent roadmap that can help at least some couples get from the betrayal of infidelity and broken trust to an honest, functioning open relationship.

The following chapters in Part Three are particularly brilliant in discussing a most daunting situation: Mono-Polyam relationships. When one person feels a strong need for an exclusively monogamous relationship and the other feels they can only be happy in polyamorous relationship, most people (and most therapists) conclude that they are incompatible and that there is no common ground. Martha has developed some amazing strategies for many Mono-Polyam couples to stay together and find some happiness despite their differences. She acknowledges that this is a hard row to hoe and takes a lot of personal growth work, time, and commitment, but cites many successful examples. In my experience, this is the most challenging problem of all, and many couples do not survive it, but Martha’s techniques and guidance are essential tools to navigate this particularly stormy sea.

A special bonus for both therapists and their clients are the many excellent worksheets she includes as appendices at the end of the book. These are extremely useful in helping individuals and couples identify their needs, desires, beliefs, and biases, as well as come up with action steps that will help them have happier and healthier relationships. These amazing worksheets are available to anyone who has the good sense to buy the book snap them up and use them, for which I am very grateful! I have already begun using these worksheets to help my clients, and suggesting the book and the worksheets to friends going through poly drama. Luckily for us, Martha is so committed to the success of healthy, happy polyamorous relationships that she is making self-therapy available to all, rather than making an artificial barrier of expertise when it comes to creating strong relationships.

One of the most exciting aspects of this book is its synthesis of the mountains of research that has been done in recent years, and provides many nuggets of information that have come out of these studies. For instance, “Nowhere in the research is there any indication of a higher incidence or different type of psychopathology in the polyamorous community than in the population at large.” That is academic-speak for: “Poly people and their relationships are at least as sane and healthy as anyone else on the planet.”

This book is an excellent training course for therapists, and their clients will benefit from it even more than the therapists. Finally, polyamorous clients will have access to a much higher quality of therapy from clinicians who understand their relationships and can offer them support and guidance. And individuals or couples seeking a polyamory self-help manual can skip therapy and study this book instead.

The number of people engaged in consensually non-monogamous relationships has increased significantly over the past decade. Unless a therapist actively avoids polyamorous clients, they are going to find themselves sitting across from them in their therapy room, and when that happens, they will be certain to need the huge amount of information that is packed into this book. This book provides the template for therapists to develop competence so they will feel confident and comfortable working with a rapidly growing demographic of clients who are eagerly seeking their help. This book bridges the gap between the traditional view of monogamy and healthy relationships that therapists have been taught in school, and the reality of the full