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Challenging everyday monogamism: Making the paradigm shift from couple-centric bias to polycule-centred practice in counselling and psychotherapy

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Y. Gavriel Ansara

 

Dr. Gávi Ansara (he/him), PhD Psychol, MCouns, is an anti-racist psychotherapist, researcher, clinical educator, policy advisor, and community activist living on the sovereign lands of the Boon Wurrung people in the Kulin Nations. He is a polycultural man of faith who grew up in urban and rural China, Australia, and elsewhere. He created the Polycules in Partnership course, a polycule-centred and affirming relationship program designed to help people in polyamorous and multi-partnered relationship systems to develop and nourish polysecure kinship bonds. 

Dr. Gávi has a PhD and MSc in Psychology (University of Surrey, England), a Master of Counselling (Monash), a BA in International and Cross-Cultural Health with African Studies (Hamps), and a PGDip in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (Surrey). He is an AAFT-Accredited Clinical Family Therapist, a Clinical Member of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia’s (PACFA) College of Psychotherapy and College of Relationship Counsellors, and a Registered National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Disability Services Provider.

He received the American Psychological Association’s Transgender Research Award for original and significant research on cisgenderism in approaches to young people. He also received the UK Higher Education Academy’s National Psychology Postgraduate Teaching Award for excellence in teaching psychology and the University of Surrey Vice Chancellor’s Alumni Achievement Award for outstanding contributions to standards and policies in international human rights and social justice.

 

Abstract

Monogamism is the systemic oppression enacted through ideas and practices that valorise monogamous people and relationships while systematically devaluing polyamorous and multi-partnered ones. One manifestation of monogamism is mononormative bias: the bias that all people are or should be monogamous and that multi-partnered relationships are “alternative,” “different,” immature, or rare. Couple-centric bias is a type of mononormative bias that assumes all people desire or should have a “couple” relationship, and that other relationship configurations are inferior, immature, unnatural, abnormal, or unsustainable. Everyday monogamism refers to the unexamined implicit and explicit monogamist biases and systemic oppression that people in polyamorous relationship systems and multi-partnered kinship bonds navigate in everyday life. This paper explores everyday monogamism in counselling and psychotherapy. In this article, I critique some everyday language, concepts, and clinical practices through which therapists—particularly relationship counsellors—enact monogamist oppression. Next, I challenge the couple-centric bias endemic to both explicitly monogamist and ostensibly polyamory-inclusive relationship counselling approaches. Finally, I discuss how therapists can participate in the ongoing paradigm shift from couple-centric bias toward polycule-centred practice.

 

Acknowledgments

My thanks to PACJA Editor Dr. Rhys Price-Robertson, Gene Melzack, Tucker Lieberman, and the anonymous peer reviewers for their editorial feedback. I also express my appreciation for Dr. Kieran O’Loughlin, Dr. Clare Rosoman, and S. A. Phoenix for the encouragement and stimulating discussions that led me to begin writing this article. Finally, thank you to the insightful authors who are contributing to the paradigm shift toward polycule-centred practice and the many people involved in polyamorous and multi-partnered relationships who have shared the lived experiences and insights on which this paper is based.

 

Keywords: relationship counselling, polyamory, sex therapy, clinical skills, discrimination

 

Address for correspondence:
Dr. Gávi Ansara
Email: gavi@ansarapsychotherapy.com