August 23


On Non Monogamy Therapy: Hear directly from a poly therapist!

By Tatyana Kholodkov

August 23, 2023

You may be considering getting support for yourself as you explore or navigate ethical non monogamy. You might have even ended up on this page because you have searched for a polyamory therapist in North Carolina.  But what does it mean to work with a therapist who is not just affirming, but specializing in polyamory?

This blog is based on an interview with Project Yes PLLC relationship therapist Jonah Leslie. It is both a first hand account of what it means to be doing this work. It is also a chance for you to get to know him a bit more if you have been looking for therapy around ethical non-monogamy. 

Picture of Jonah Leslie, relationship therapist in Durham, NC specializing in non-traditional relationships.

What is a poly affirming therapist? 

A poly affirming therapist is more than simply familiar with terminology but someone who is really going to be behind and excited about your growth, and is going to proactively invite your exploration of that identity. You don’t have to hold back what you are contemplating, fantasizing about, or wondering. In this partnership, a therapist can support you in a really encouraging way, at your own pace. Jonah shared his deep interest in hearing how people are managing their relationships, with a deep respect that there is no one “ right way.” When needed, Jonah can offer guidance if a person is not sure how to approach parts where their relationships or live out their identities.  Jonah offered, “I see myself as a poly ambassador. I’m not here to tell you how to do poly, but I am here to help you build a practice that is sustainable.”

How would you provide therapy for an affair or infidelity? 

When asked about working with clients where there is a history of infidelity, Jonah highlighted the importance of healing. “Post infidelity there is a lot of sensitivity. It becomes even more important to go slow, not from a place of fear but from a place of care. I can help individuals or couples figure out what places need extra support, and what places are hurting in your relational and emotional world. There are going to be aspects of exploring polyamory that are going to poke into sensitive spaces. I want to help you figure out how to identify and take care of the parts where fear is going to be showing up and not let that necessary control, but instead inform, how you approach your poly practice.” 

I would want to work with someone on healing that relationship, and that also can be in the context of opening up a relationship. Re-establishing trust and security that was damaged before- that needs to get it’s own. It is going to be harder to be poly in as sustainable way if there is an underlying injury. 

What about when people try ethical non-monogamy to “spice up their relationship?” 

Introducing ethical non-monogamy into an existing relationship can be exciting, and at times is chosen out of an attempt to create big change. Jonah offered, “I think a lot of people approach poly as a way to fix or repair a relationship, and I think that’s a very dangerous misconception. It doesn’t mean everything needs to be perfect before you try it out. But it is not going to be a repair for an injury in a relationship.”

Inspiration as a relationship therapist for the non monogamy community: 

Upon reflecting on why Jonah is passionate about working with the consensual non monogamy community, he shared  “What draws me to it is it is the community I am part of. It’s not that being poly is a huge part of my identity but it is how I look at relationships. Having had experiences with therapists and other people who are not aware of ins and outs of poly approach to things its something I can step in and offer more unique. I see a need out there and up to stepping into meeting that need. From an authenticity perspective, if you look at the big picture, I’m interested in doing relationship work. I want to do that in the stream I naturally swim in.”

What are the benefits of seeing a relationship therapist with lived experience in consensual non monogamy:  

Seeing a therapist who is poly affirming may already provide relief to a person who is seeking a safe space to disclose their interest or experience with polyamory. However, it is a different story to work with a therapist who has lived experience. 

Jonah offered, “I understand it on a deeper level.” 

As a result of his lived experience, Jonah has an understanding of: 

  • The breadth of capacity for love for multiple, and attachment with multiple people.
  • Opening the doors for the kind of connections you can have rather than having a constrained assumption of attachment or affection.
  • Debunking the myth that “there is only so much love to go around.” 
  • Troubleshooting when there are bumps in the road.
  • Having a realistic perspective that things do not always work out picture perfect, but still can be overall life-enhancing. 
  • Dealing with poly heartbreak. 
  • Forming incredibly deep relationships with more than one person.
  • Developing commitment and vulnerability across relationships. 
  • Having relationships that not only don’t interfere with one another, but actually synergistic and each becomes more rich in the context of the other. 
  • The importance of ongoing negotiation, consent, and conversation. 
Graffiti on a wall that reads Love is Love representing support for consensual nonmonogamy and the need for poly affirming relationship therapists in Durham, NC.

How often are relationship difficulties related to problems with communication? 

Both as a therapist and human, Jonah offers, “I would say more often than not.” Having had some mistakes that I’ve made in communication and having seen what works and what doesn’t as well as just general importance of regular communication. Being poly has allowed me to grow in that free flowing information and being vulnerable in that communication. Doing so makes your relationships stronger. Although communication can at times be vulnerable and challenging, it ultimately builds connection and intimacy. 

What are ways you can help individuals with how to open up their relationship?

I think a lot of poly groups pay particular attention to communication because it is such a necessity, and so there are a lot of skills that your average poly person already pays attention to. That’s one of the first places I can offer help. When people are first exploring, they are not sure how much to communicate and how to do so. While there are set rules, I can help couples have more effective communication and see the value of vulnerability. 

Building a shared understanding of emotional worlds.

Aside from just increasing effective communication, Jonah is deeply interested in Al’s helping people become more intimately connected with themselves. As a poly therapists, he adds, “It puts me in a position to explore communicating about emotional experiences that clients may not be accustomed to communicating about. It is not just about negotiating the schedule or the physical things one is comfortable or uncomfortable doing. It’s helping people get in touch with, what is happening within me? How is this making me feel? And then, conveying one’s emotional experience to their partner. This is super important to build a shared understanding of one’s emotional worlds, which restores and maintains connection.

In his therapy sessions, as a relationship therapist, Jonah can help:

  • Encourage people to get in touch with their feelings, and teach tools that help.
  • Communicate their raw emotional experience.
  • Utilizing modern couples therapy techniques to help clients empathize with one another’s emotional experiences. 
  • Building openness in both partners to share that. 

What if someone sees you as only understanding non- traditional relationships?

Although Jonah specializes in working with folks interested in polyamory, he also frequently works with individuals in more “traditional,” monogamous relationships. He offers. “The dynamics that occur in non monogamous relationships, there are analogous to what occurs in monogomous relationships.” There are also values informed by poly identity which are applicable to monogamous relationships, including communication, openness, trust, and fulfillment. 

Jonah highlighted, “I don’t view poly as an expansion or better than monogamous.” He supports clients with where they are at, and whatever helps them feel like they are living a meaningful life. In fact, his background in polyamory helps him be a more curious therapist. “If I’m working with a mono couple, I am making less assumptions about how their relationship works.” 

How do you help individuals, couples, or polycules in therapy? 

Project Yes PLLC therapists are here to support folks, without an assumption of what you are doing or what is effective. Jonah shared, “I feel like this is one of the biggest differences between a poly affirming therapist versus a therapist down to talk about poly in a therapy setting.  I’m going to be curious: how are you setting things up for yourself? What has worked, and where have things gone awry? I’ve seen a lot more different types of relationship configurations. I may offer therapy clients to explore something that a traditional or monogamously oriented therapist may not consider. There are a thousand ways that people do poly.”

How might I know if you’re the right relationship therapist for me?

We encourage therapy clients to be savvy consumers, and we know that there are many options for therapists in North Carolina. However, Jonah’s unique skill set may offer you the kind of next step you have been looking for. In his own words, Jonah offers, just like finding a relationship with a romantic partner, finding a relationship with a therapist is 1) do you have the right vibe; 2) does their approach mesh with you?” Your intake appointment, both for individual and relationship therapy, is a time to explore whether this feels like the right fit for you. 

What is unique about you as a therapist? 

Jonah has a long history of being curious about people. He was an anthropologist for 10 years, a huge part of which has been cultivating an awareness of difference of cultures. Jonah shared about his work and studies, “what are the influences, societal and culture on your relationship values? What impacts how you express yourself? What did you learn about what methods of communication are acceptable? The anthropologist in me is always looking to step back a lot of my own assumptions and take a more curious approach.”

Jonah brings with him a rich therapeutic background.

Jonah also brings in a rich therapeutic background. Although he is trained in modern couples therapy approaches including Gottman Therapy, he also greatly values a relational (rather than just individualistic) lense in his work.  He framed his interest as, “how do we grow with and towards one another.” In drawing from Relational Cultural Theory, he adds, “part of RCT is also giving more of yourself. There’s a natural expansion from individual therapy to relationship therapy to poly relationship therapy.” He also places a lot of emphasis on the therapist-client relationship.   

Jonah’s application of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

In his application of Acceptance and Commitment therapy, Jonah adds, “a lot of that would be helping clients who they are in relation to other people. People have stories about who they are with others. I can help them examine which stories may not serve them, and what do they want to reinforce and embody more fully? How can they use their relationship as a support for living a more satisfying life?”

Graffiti wall art of hearts in a rainbow of flowing colors representing the concept that love comes in all shapes and configurations. Work with someone who gets it in Couples Therapy for Nontraditional Relationships in Durham, NC.

If you have been looking for a relationship therapist in North Carolina that can help you with ethical non monogamy, Jonah would be happy to be of support to you.

Your journey with polyamory deserves understanding, empathy, and expertise. If you’ve found yourself curious, excited, or even a little overwhelmed about exploring ethical non-monogamy, Jonah Leslie at Project Yes PLLC is here to support you.

With lived experience, a deep passion for relationship work, and specialized techniques designed for both non-traditional and monogamous relationships, Jonah offers a unique approach tailored to your individual needs.

Whether you’re looking to heal, open up a relationship, or simply strengthen your connection with others, don’t wait to take the next step in your journey.

Already have other forms of support? Consider joining one of Jonah’s upcoming polyamory support groups or consensual non monogamy workshops! 

Other Services Offered by Project Yes

In addition to Sex-Positive and Kink-Friendly Therapy, we offer Psychotherapy Services for Relationship TherapyAnxietyInsomniaIntegrative HealthOCD, and Trauma and PTSD as well as Yoga and Meditation Options. Additionally, we offer Psychedelic PsychotherapyKetamine-Assisted Psychotherapy, and more. We look forward to guiding you on your journey toward optimal physical and mental well-being.

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