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Defining Your Open Relationship

You may have searched Google with: “counselling for open relationships”,  hoping to find an experienced counsellor who works with intimate couples, throuples or groups who have opened their relationship to polyamory and/or non-monogamy (whether by prior arrangement, managing a recent invitation from their partner, or discovering what appeared – at first sight – to be an affair).

How did that work out for you?

An open (non-monogamous or non-exclusive) relationship is an intimate form of partnership that incorporates sexual activities with other partners (whether involving the couple together or only one partner alone). The term generally indicates a relationship where there is a primary emotional and intimate connection between two partners who have agreed (whether explicitly or not) to manage (at least the possibility of) sexual intimacy with other people.

When you looked at other counsellor websites, you may have been left wondering: “well… do they work with open relationships or not?! 🤔” It wasn’t clear to you.

Open Relationship Counselling from Dean Richardson MNCPS (Accred/Reg) would be the service you’d consider:

  • when your open relationship has developed difficulties you cannot manage together,
  • when you and your partner are interested in opening your relationship, but don’t know where to start,
  • when one partner may have invited the other to open their relationship, and the couple wants to discuss the matter before they take things further.
Open Relationship Counselling

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Aims of Open Relationship Counselling

A primary purpose of open-relationship couple counselling is to support the couple in creating their own effective approach to resolving open-relationship conflicts.

Tailored Relationship Therapy:

Dean's approach is all about creating a personalised therapy experience. Employing 25 years of knowledge he facilitates a collaborative process, incorporating your unique needs, ideas, and suggestions. This open, honest communication can lead to effective (re-)solutions.

Employing Your Strengths:

Avoiding a "one-size-fits-all" approach, Dean focuses on building upon your relationship's distinct strengths. Working together, a deeper understanding of your dynamics will become available, which can assist with developing your own effective tools for navigating and transforming challenges and conflicts.

Long-Term (Re-)Solutions:

This is personalised relationship therapy, empowering you to create lasting change. You can walk away with skills, knowledge and application that maintains your healthy relationship for years.

This is not always an easy approach—there'll be work for you to do, which can sometimes be stressful. But our aim is to mature this process into something unique, useful, and lasting to take away, having actively invested in its development.

Innovation, Creativity and Ideas for Open Relationship Counselling

An Effective Service

An effective therapeutic service for two adults, a couple-in-conflict may bring their struggles into counselling to develop their own, unique, insightful approach to resolving relationship problems… with the added bonus of needing no further counselling sessions once they’re done!

In beginning this approach Dean moves the couple from a blaming/lost position into a creative/solution-finding position, gaining new information about their relationship:-

Taking Things One Step at a Time

An overview of how LGBT relationship counselling works, starts with encouraging curiosity…

  1. Curiosity (initiated through Counselling)… leading to  →  New Information.
  2. New Information… leading towards  →  New Options.
  3. New Options… leading towards  →  Negotiating / Making New Choices.
  4. New Choices… leading towards  →  Transforming the Relationship (through informed empowerment).
  5. Transformation Underway… the partners are developing affective behaviours that address relationship conflicts (and may choose to leave counselling).

Curiosity allows us to discover new knowledge. New information provides us (and our partners) with new possibilities, which leads to us making some new (or newer) relationship decisions. When new decisions are made, the behaviour of the partnership can begin to change. When the partners' relationship is much more under their own management (again), they will recognise it's time to leave counselling.

By becoming innovative (at a pace you can manage well), we begin to move from the focus of our work are our problems into a place of hypothesis, checking things out, learning, and putting in place newer behaviour. Then we’ll say goodbye.

Opening a Relationship

Nonnormative Therapy

Dean is a fully qualified and experienced couple relationship counsellor. He employs effective couple-therapy theoretical frameworks that have been around and developed since the 1970s.

He imcorporates an approach referred to as nonnormative. This means that:

(a) his therapeutic approach doesn’t attempt to prescribe what a “normal” couple should be doing,
(b) his therapeutic approach doesn’t make prescriptions of the order: “what a couple in this situation would do is…”

Focus on the Couple’s needs

In this way, open relationship counselling focuses upon the open-couple’s own relationship, their own behaviour and their own needs (rather than someone else’s belief about how a successful open-relationship ought to be).

The couple get to develop something that’s distinctly for their own partnership.

Exciting, isn’t it?!

What is Normal?

Open Relationship Planning

It’s not unusual for a couple to come into counselling having opened their relationship (or found it had been opened by one or both partners) to work through unforseen or unplanned problems in their relationship.

Some other couples, however, use counselling to plan their open relationship.

Planning an open relationship – along with Dean as their therapist – can see the couple create a living document together: an agreement based upon informed decisions made from detailed discussions.

Dean provides the insight and curiosity (“you’ve said ‘A’ but what about situation ‘B’?)

Open Relationship Counselling

Creating your own Rules

For example: the couple may decide that neither partner may engage sexually with someone known to the other partner. The couple may decide that their agreement is to focus on non-monogamy rather than polyamory (see my definition of non-monogamy vs polyamory ). The couple may learn of previously-unknown emotional insecurities within their partnership and incorporate a process to mitigate or care-for the emotional vulnerabilities of their relationship plan. Finally, the couple may or may not decide that after looking into creating their own Open Relationship Living Document that opening the relationship is ultimately not what they want to do. At the same time they may take away some learning from the process to incorporate back into their exclusive relationship (such as, perhaps, more sexual playfulness).

Whatever you and your partner want to do with an Open Relationship, it can take just a handful of counselling sessions (average: 6) to assist you in working-out where you would like to take your relationship… together.

Clients have remarked on Counsellor Dean's uncanny ability to 'read' behaviours that have gone unrecognised by the couple (sometimes for years). By hypothesising, together, "what could be going on here?" the clients and Dean grow a helpful alliance that can empower the relationship's comprehension of their own (seemingly) helpless battles. With new information comes the ability for the clients to make different decisions—decisions that can lead to them growing together in a different, more satisfying direction.

Every Session Provides

Different relationship counsellors work in different ways.

Dean's core approach is the integration of psychodynamic and systemic theoretical models (along with whatever is helpful, to be honest!). But let's give you a more plain-English overview of what each counselling session can provide for you.

  • A complete 50-minute session (or 90 minutes for throuples and groups) that begins on the hour, will not start late, and ends at a consistent and predictable time.

  • Over 24 years of therapeutic skills including: reframing of subject matter that can bring comprehension, behavioural interpretation, identification of unconscious processes (projection, splitting, etc), insightful comments, observations, active listening, and knowledge of LGBTQ+ relationships that can help you make informed choices around relationship change.

  • Non-judgement respect for this being your distinct relationship, avoiding diagnoses, pathologising, and prescribing to you: "how a normal relationship would deal with this is..."

  • Techniques and approaches that can help all partners confront, halt and transform unhappy behaviour.

  • Unlimited opportunities to contribute your own ideas, suggestions and hypotheses.

  • Unlimited opportunities to gain new knowledge and comprehension about their partner's (and their own) behaviour and motivations in the context of this relationship.

  • Unlimited homework opportunities: to discuss, plan and design your own homework in between sessions.

  • The same counsellor every session, so that the connection you build with Dean can become dependable and trustworthy.

  • Weekly appointments scheduled for the same day and time (excepting planned holidays), giving you the flexibility to manage your personal schedule without squeezing-in future counselling sessions.

  • A professional facilitative approach that can assist you and your partner(s) in identifying your own problems, interrupting faults, and putting in corrective behaviour. A strategy you can use and re-use for years to come.

  • A therapist who listens for the problems that your relationship cannot hear and who maintains a neutral position (e.g. does not take sides).

  • Reliable and containing boundaries - whether it's as simple as time keeping or more complex such as distressing subject material.

  • Flexible and dynamic outcomes - your goals at the beginning of our work together may change over time. We will manage whatever new matters your relationship needs to attend to.

  • Helpful support during distressing and emotional times.

  • Support in finding ways to bring the counselling work to an end. We can stop our work at any time, and discussing this with your counsellor can help find creative ways to plan for the partners to continue their work.

Puzzling out Relationship Behaviour

Maybe think of Couple Counselling like this story:- a couple come into counselling carrying an open box. Within the box are many jigsaw pieces, all mixed up. The couple supposes that all the pieces are there. When they have been taking out pieces, one might say: “a blue piece – this obviously means it’s ‘sky’!” and tries to fit the piece to others that may also be sky. The other partner might say: “no, blue means ‘sea’!” and tries to connect the piece to bits that might be sea. An argument ensues because some pieces are fitting together and other aren’t; the couple are fighting over what the picture is meant to look like.

A major contributing factor is: no-one knows where the box lid is; the couple have no picture reference. They haven’t discussed/agreed upon what the jigsaw looks like and each partner has their individual ideas of what this jigsaw picture is supposed to be.

If the jigsaw puzzle is the couple’s relationship what does counselling do to help the couple rebuild the lost-picture-of-their-relationship?

Working out the Open Relationship Puzzle in Therapy

Becoming your own therapist

In session, the counsellor’s role includes facilitating the couple into discussing, negotiating and agreeing / empathising / compromising upon what each piece might be in the context of this relationship (new information →  inspiration, negotiation, compromise), how each piece might fit with others, and working together to build their own picture. We’re supporting each other in hypothesising “if a blue piece could be more than only sky or sea what else could it be?” to empower the couple with newer (piece fitting…) options to help to build this new relationship picture.

The couple (at their own pace) become empowered into making their own hypotheses together and the counsellor begins to step back from holding the concept of the couple’s relationship in his mind. The couple are discovering new information and are making new, informed choices sufficiently for the pieces of their relationship to fit together, better than before, and a clearer picture is developing in front of them.

Therapy Achieved With You

A common assumption about couple counselling is often based upon a GP/Doctor experience: the couple describe their symptoms and expect the therapist to prescribe how they fix things.

If this is so, a couple’s first disappointment will be for them to learn how to manage: “why isn’t the counsellor fixing us?!”

As a Couple Counsellor, Dean practices a systemic/psychodynamic form of couple relationship counselling; he takes a neutral stance within the therapeutic alliance in order to learn how the couple pull and push together.  He’s listening within the stories for common/conjoined anxieties (hidden within the couple’s behaviour). This approach may relieve you of the need to pull the counsellor into an adjudicating position (deciding who is right or wrong). In fact, it could be helpful to discuss – in session – any recognition of such needs.

This is just one of the extraordinary therapeutic approaches that Dean employs to work alongside a couple, rather than employing exercises at the couple. The couple are invited to participate within the therapy as equal participants: becoming therapists themselves working to resolve open relationship difficulties.

Two Video Devices

Dean Richardson has more than 17 years’ practice in Couple Counselling via Video Conferencing (Skype, Zoom etc). His original focus was working with couples in Long Distance Relationships (i.e. partners being in a different countries to each other would have to use one device each).

As 2019’s pandemic developed, Dean discovered a therapeutically useful phenomenon for couples seeking remote counselling services over video: couples living together also benefited from using individual devices (i.e. one device each, sitting in different rooms from each other); couples reported back that the approach gave them a helpful sense of “we’re not at home” during therapy.

An Empowering Approach

This means that Dean’s particular approach empowers couples to talk with each other, in counselling, about subjects that couldn’t usually be discussed “at home” (or, at least, not in the early stages of counselling). Difficult subjects became more accessible due to the use of two video devices (any mix of Smartphones, tablets, PCs, Macs etc available to the couple).

So, as you consider entering counselling with Dean Richardson for Zoom/Skype Video Counselling, the following Preparations for Video Counselling will be helpful to you both…

Open Relationship Couple on Video Counselling

Different from Couple Counselling?

A greater proportion of Open Relationship Couple Counselling is discussed on my Couple Counselling page, as the two approaches have a similar core.

Subjects include:-

⚠️Might you be looking for Family Mediation?

Counsellors and Mediators have quasi-comparable skills (skills that appear to be the same), which can leave you struggling to decide which professional service might benefit your relationship the most.

Counsellors are not mediators, and mediators are not counsellors. So, in a (very small) nutshell...

  • Counsellors are trained/qualified to support parties who wish to reconcile (and may wish to investigate separation),  and who need to explore historical problems and more deep-rooted historical issues in their relationship, etc.
  • Mediators are trained/qualified to support parties wishing to separate amicably, maintain boundaries in keeping discussions targeted towards the future, mitigate "blaming-behaviour", etc.
Family Mediation

About Dean Richardson MNCPS (Accred/Reg)

You could choose any couple / group counsellor…

Given that this will be the most intimate and vulnerable you could feel alongside your partner(s), you would want a skilled professional whose experience and specialism you could trust; whose focus would be upon your distinct relationship. Your couple, throuple or group relationship will be in good hands with Dean. He works from Great Britain, is Independent of "box 'em/shift 'em" therapy services, and identifies as a gay couple counsellor. He's also easily payable in pounds sterling! Dean already had an impressive 17 years actual video "webcam" experience - way before the first British emergency began (when suddenly many counsellors added a Video option to their portfolio, having not practised so previously! 🤔).

What makes Dean Distinct

  • Dean is sensitive and effective to your sexuality / gender-identity and intimate ways of relating to each other. You'll discover quickly that Dean is an informed member of your own community.
  • Dean demonstrates adept skills with lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, fluid, mixed sexuality and same-or-mixed gender relationships having over 24 years' experience as a counsellor.
  • Dean avoids taking a the role of "all-knowing expert" (whether requested or projected onto him by the clients). "Experts" tell you what to do, do not learn very well from others, and struggle to adapt to new situations. A couple counsellor must be curious, adaptive, and ask questions from a "not knowing" position so that the relationship in counselling benefits from re-examination.
  • Dean speaks plain English (and can swear like a virtuoso if you like, or not at all if you prefer). He works cooperatively with your relationship (no unnecessary silence, or just "hmms...").
  • Dean was originally accredited by his first professional body 15 years ago; he is now an accredited registrant with The National Counselling and Psychotherapy Society. Accreditation is a valued recognition of a counsellor's substantial experience. Dean is also a member of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Union of Great Britain.
  • Dean is a British Counsellor working from the South of England. Unlike other counselling services operating from abroad Dean is registered, accredited, insured & supervised from within England (not from abroad).

If any of this resonates with you and your partner(s), you should probably meet with the Gay Relationship Counsellor: Dean Richardson MNCPS (Accred/Reg) via Zoom, Skype, Whatsapp and other secure, reliable video conferencing media.

Dean focuses on LGBT/QIA+ relationships as a specialty in therapy. He works with individuals, couples and small groups. Plus, he's qualified to a postgraduate level (Chichester PG Diploma in Psychodynamic / Systemic Couple Counselling, IGA National Foundation in Group Counselling), and works as a private practice counsellor employing 24+ years experience*.

(*Very Important: not all counsellors have such specific skills for working with couples nor groups. Those who are initially trained to use common "Individual" Counselling skills have no experience in working therapeutically with relationships. Such counsellors may try, perhaps out of misplaced goodwill, to employ "individual" techniques (multiplied by 2) but the couple or group will find that the approach is ineffective. Simply put: it's the wrong approach; your relationship is not part of the counsellor's primary theoretical framework. Remember always to ask your potential counsellor: "what qualifies you to work with our relationship?" and trust your instincts based on what you hear.

MNPCS Accredited Registrant Counsellor
Member of the British Psychotherapy and Counselling Union
Location Image+44-56-0366-3067£30-£130
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Got a Question about LGBT/QIA+ Counselling?

Come and ask... whatever question you have about couple and/or group counselling for gay, lesbian, bisexual, aromatic, asexual and mixed-orientation relationships you might have, get in touch today to discuss your needs…

Private Counselling Services Designed for the LGBTQ+ Community. Available Exclusively to Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, ASexual, ARomantic, Mixed & Queer Couples, and Established Polyamorous Groups - serving the UK Nationwide over Zoom & Skype, plus locations in and around central Havant, Petersfield to Waterlooville, Cosham to Portsmouth & Southsea, Southampton to Chichester, Fareham to Gosport, Hayling Island, Emsworth, Westbourne, Rowland's Castle, stretching westwards to Bournemouth, eastwards towards Brighton & Hove and northwards towards Liverpool, Manchester and Hull. For local residents anywhere in between, across the whole UK, and regularly further afield abroad!