Purdue University Graduate School
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An Exploration of Relational Therapists' Attitudes, Knowledge, and Practices with Consensually Nonmonogamous Clients

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posted on 2021-12-20, 18:20 authored by Alexia Marie KingzetteAlexia Marie Kingzette
Previous research suggests one in five United States (U.S.) adults will engage in consensual nonmonogamy (CNM) in their lifetime (Haupert et al., 2017). Despite a significant number of adults engaging in CNM relationships, there is considerable stigma regarding CNM status. Clients that identify as CNM are marginalized in the process of psychotherapy (Henrich & Trawinski, 2016; Kisler & Lock, 2019; Schechinger et al., 2018). One previous study found that one-third of clients who identify as consensually nonmonogamous reported experiencing inappropriate therapy practices (Schechinger et al., 2018). Inappropriate therapy practices included their therapist pathologizing their relationship structure or expressing judgmental attitudes around their CNM relationship. Clients who experienced inappropriate practices were significantly more likely to terminate therapy prematurely. The present study measures relational therapists’ (n = 775) attitudes, monogamism sensitivity, and knowledge regarding consensual nonmonogamy. Treatment practices when working with clients who identify as CNM were also explored through open-ended questions. A simple linear regression revealed that knowledge of CNM predicted favorable attitudes toward CNM. Furthermore, monogamism sensitivity strengthened the relationship between knowledge and attitudes. Specialized training was not significant in predicting knowledge of CNM or attitudes toward CNM. Thematic analysis revealed four categories related to working with CNM clients in therapy. These categories were general treatment, helpful practices, unhelpful practices, and perpetuating stigma. Results of both the qualitative and quantitative data analyses suggest relational therapy training programs should better prepare clinicians in working with clients who identify as consensually nonmonogamous. Specifically, in addressing how monogamism influences therapists ’clinical judgement.


Degree Type

  • Master of Science


  • Couple & Family Therapy

Campus location

  • Hammond

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Kevin Hynes

Additional Committee Member 2

Christopher Belous

Additional Committee Member 3

Markie Twist