Considering polyamory and narrative therapy by Barbara Baumgartner

Welcome to another Friday Afternoon at Dulwich Centre discussion. This week promises another topic to stretch our thinking and practice! Barbara Baumgartner, from Canada, examines how, in her context, much of couple counselling (and the broader culture) takes for granted a range of monogamous assumptions and values. What could couple counselling look like if this was not the case? What if counsellors engaged with the growing numbers of people interested in differing conceptions of intimate relations, including polyamory? After you have watched Barbara’s video we invite you to join the forum discussion on this topic.

Further reading

Barbara Baumgartner (2009) A multiplicity of desire: polyamory and relationship counselling. International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work 2:59-63.

Published January 24, 2013

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Liz Morrigan

    Hi everyone
    I have been loving the feel of the word polyamory rolling over my tongue since listening to a conference presentation a couple of years ago. Reading Barbara’s article and now listening to her Friday afternoon talk has taken my thoughts further into the territory that the concept opens up.

    I noticed it played a role in a counselling conversation today where the topic was a relationship that would be called an “affair”: simply by making a distinction between “polyarmory” and “affair” invited the person to speak more about their preferred approaches to relationships and sexual encounters. Barbara offered a variety of ways of engaging with polyarmory including the possibility of a little bit of comfort. I think a little bit of comfort with “other than monogamy” contributed to this conversation today.

    Barbara’s naming of “ownership” and “jealousy” as common effects of “monogamy” is also significant for me as I attempt to envision an intimate relationship without these two features!
    Liz M

  2. Mark Gordon

    Hi Barbara

    I appreciate the time you’ve taken to introduce polyamory and I welcome the chance to think not only about the implications for therapeutic and community based practice – but also to review some of the language (and training) of relationships and daily life that I’m a part of. Your presentation energises some of the key practices that first connected me to narrative practices.

    So often I think we invite the people we meet with into ‘stretching’ conversations – and it seems critical we’re prepared to do the same. Barbara your presentation made this possible as I started to imagine some of the questions I might ask, the opportunities to better ‘hear’ people and in turn respond to the stories shared.

    When thinking about narrative practices I stepped into some of the conversations I share with people addressing their relationships. Often in these conversations I’m reminded of some of the words you used – such as ‘ownership’, ‘obscure choice’, and how the ‘training has been so thorough’. At other times I’m wanting to support people to ‘open up the space’ when frequently the conversations have been hurtful, bitter and polarising.

    Something I often notice is that a person themselves might be have thought very carefully about the kinds of relationships they want to participate in however there is a constant struggle to find others in their life / family who are prepared to share of even consider this space with them. The struggles to hold onto these considerations seems to generate experiences such as doubt, isolation and disappointment. I understand the importance of tracing the history of these understandings and values and supporting people to be connected to these – but I’m also interested to think about what more might be helpful.

    Well I’m guessing there is still a little snow on the mountain peaks around Vancouver. A sight I’ll always enjoy.

    best wishes
    mark (melbourne, Australia)

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