Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy

Consensually Nonmonogamous Clients and the Impact of Mononormativity in Therapy/Les Clients Non Monogames Consensuels et L'impact De la Mononormativite En Therapie

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy

Consensually Nonmonogamous Clients and the Impact of Mononormativity in Therapy/Les Clients Non Monogames Consensuels et L'impact De la Mononormativite En Therapie

Article excerpt

Ethical and culturally sensitive counselling practice includes being informed about various cultures and subcultures with which one works and having sensitivity and respect for client diversity (Arthur & Collins, 2010a; Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association [CCPA], 2007). Mononormativity is a term coined by Pieper and Bauer (2005) and refers to society's standard of monogamy, the practice of emotional and sexual commitment to one individual as the norm for engaging in romantic relationships. The influence of mononormative assumptions has potential to impact the well-being of persons who engage in consensually nonmonogamous (CNM) relationships by unintentionally privileging monogamous relationships above other relationship styles (Conley, Ziegler, Moors, Matsick, & Valentine, 2012) and consequently stigmatizing the often misunderstood cultural groups associated with the practice of CNM (Conley, Moors, Matsick, & Ziegler, 2013). That is, counsellors who hold mononormative assumptions may inadvertently discriminate or offend clients who value and/or are engaged in alternate forms of relationships. In fact, they may offend any client, given that a monocular view of relationship structure can be perceived as limited by clients of any relationship practice.

CNM relationships occur within and among all genders and sexual orientations, and the choice of nonmonogamy is directly related to neither gender identity nor sexual orientation. Our intent in this article is to focus on the sociocultural discourses, potential normative assumptions and biases of practitioners, and the implications for culturally responsive counselling with individuals who identify with CNM. For those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/ or queer (LGBTQ) who also engage in CNM, additional layers of sociocultural marginalization and discrimination are present, along with vastly different experiences of stigma among gay males compared to lesbian women who also identify as CNM. As a result of these differences, we have elected to draw our attention to those who identify as heterosexual, which refers herein to those who participate in opposite-sex relationships, and cisgendered, which refers to those whose gender corresponds to their birth sex.

Mononormativity, in this article, is framed within the discourse surrounding the social, structural, and systemic hierarchy of relationships within North America. However, we recognize that counsellors and the discipline as a whole exist within broader sociocultural contexts that privilege monogamy. These dominant normative assumptions are often internalized and find expression in the values, beliefs, and biases of individual counsellors and the collective narratives of the professions. We recognize the inextricable relationship between societal discourses and internal attitude and how each informs and influences the other in fluid and problematic ways. Over the past decade, there has been a substantial increase in the exploration of CNM relationship structures in the media, self-help literature, and research publications (Barker & Langdridge, 2010). Despite this increase within the fields of psychology and sociology, a paucity of literature exists that directly addresses the influence of mononormativity in the context of psychotherapy (Barker, 2011; Brandon, 2011; Finn, Tunariu, & Lee, 2012; Moors & Schechinger, 2014; Weitzman, 2006; Zimmerman, 2012).

The purposes of this manuscript are to (a) invite and expand discussions about mononormativity and counselling, (b) identify an existing gap in the literature in this area, and (c) identify ways in which counsellors' internalization of mononormative bias can impact the therapeutic process. Additionally, we provide recommendations for counselling practice along with suggestions for further research and counselling education aimed at increasing counsellor competence when working with CNM populations. We intend to integrate and elaborate on existing literature to offer comprehensive suggestions for counsellors and the profession as a whole. …

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