Open Relationship Counselling for LGBT /QIA+
LGBT /QIA+ Open Relationships in Therapy
Let's talk about how Lesbian, Gay, Bi & Queer people in an intimate, open relationship sometimes use counselling support for their open relationship. How do LGBT/QIA+ work in therapy sessions with British Professional Specialist Dean Richardson MNCS(Accred/Reg) - an established relationship counsellor of over 22 years+ experience...
Defining an Open Relationship
You may have searched Google for a counsellor for a couple in an open relationship, hoping to find an experienced counsellor who works with intimate couples 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).
Yet, when you looked at the counsellor’s website, you may have been left wondering: “well… do they work with open relationships?! 🤔”
Open Relationship Couple Counselling from Dean Richardson MNCS(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 you one partner may have invited the other to open their relationship, and the couple want to discuss the matter before they take things further.
An open relationship (sometimes called non-monogamy or non-exclusive) is an intimate form of relationship that incorporates sexual activities with other partners (whether involving the couple together or one partner alone). The term generally indicates a relationship where there is a primary emotional and intimate relationship between two partners who have agreed (whether explicitly or not) to manage (at least the possibility of) sexual intimacy with other people.
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.
Unlike some therapy services, this is not a one-size-fits-all approach to gay couple / marriage counselling (what some call: "manualised"). Instead, this is a facilitated / therapeutic approach with a professionally experienced gay relationship counsellor (who's been practising for over 22 years now).
There are no "do these three things and everything will be fine" instructions, which can be unsettling for some. Working collaboratively, the couple and counsellor set about developing a therapeutic process that the partners themselves invest in (maybe a little at the start, and increasingly as they gain confidence). They practice at home, bring back matters for review and modification, take stuff away, and so on. At some point the couple recognise that the counsellor's presence is becoming redundant and then we can discuss how we might like to close our work.
Our goal is for the process to mature into something useful for your distinct and unique couple relationship needs. Plus, the approach means the couple don't get to feel as if they're passive prescriptees to a therapist's instruction.
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:-
- Curiosity (initiated through Counselling)… leading to → New Information.
- New Information… leading to → New Options.
- New Options… leading to → Negotiating / Making New Choices.
- New Choices… leading to → Transforming the Relationship (through informed empowerment).
- Transformation underway (partners consider leaving 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.
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 employs such therapeutically-effective approaches to open relationships because:
(a) his therapeutic approach doesn’t attempt to prescribe what a “normal” couple should be doing, and
(b) his therapeutic approach doesn’t make prescriptions of the order: “what a couple in this situation would do is…”
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).
Exciting, isn’t it?!
Planning an Open 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’?).
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.
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?
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 alongside 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 14 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.
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…
Counselling for a Gay / LGBTQ+ Couple's Sex Life
Even though we all might suspect that any couple can experience distress or dysfunction in their sex lives, here we're not talking about just any couple's sex life... we're talking about your sex life.
So, if sex has become difficult, complicated, or even impossible, an LGBT Couple may wish to consult with a Sexual Relationships Counsellor, such as Dean.
Counselling aims to help the couple understand their sexual behaviour problems from both a practical (what's going wrong physically) and an emotional (a barometer of some deeper problems) standpoint .
Sexual dysfunctional in a relationship can be distressing, and we can talk it through to help you.
Choose: Unlimited or Set Number of Sessions
NHS facilities and some mental health charities offer you a limited or set number of sessions. The limit may be around 6 or 12 sessions. Sometimes this may mean you will end counselling before your full requirements are addressed.
The number of sessions available to you via this service has no artificial limit. You can attend for as long, or short, as therapy is helping. Dean effective therapy approach comes from his private practice - not a service managed by a third party - and all he asks is that you commit to regular, weekly attendance.
After we have established our counselling work, you may wish to discuss the number of sessions to be attended. This can help with budgeting, availability, or new issues that come up in counselling. We can discuss potential changes before they are implemented, allowing everyone to make an informed decision.
Primarily, because we are working with your specific relationship, the therapeutic needs of the relationship are of the utmost importance. Financial issues are important, and we can address them within the context of what the relationship requires from 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.
How a Relationship Counsellor Thinks
You might be wondering how all of these splendid therapy processes actually work.
What does the counsellor actually thinking about when he's working with a couple's or a group's relationship?
What's going on inside of the counsellor's head - what is he actually doing before he speaks?
So as to not distract from this page's focus, I'll invite you to read the separate article: "How a Relationship Counsellor Thinks...".
Trust me... it's got science-ey bits in it... 😲🤣
About Dean Richardson MNCS(Accred/Reg)
You could choose any counsellor…
Given that this will be the most intimate and vulnerable you could be with your partner(s), you would want a skilled professional whose expertise you could trust, and whose focus would be upon your distinct relationship. Your couple 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 14 years actual video webcam experience way before the first British emergency began (when suddenly counsellors added a Video option to their portfolio, having not practiced so previously! 🤔).
What makes Dean a Distinct Counsellor
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) as a private practice counsellor*.
(*Note: not all counsellors, particularly those who are trained by common "Individual" Counselling qualifications, have such specific qualifications for working with couples or groups. Nor do they have experience in working with therapeutic relationships. Such counsellors may try, perhaps out of misplaced goodwill, to employ "individual" techniques but the couple or group find that the approach is ineffective. This is simply because your relationship is not part of the counsellor's primary theoretical framework nor rationale. A couple is not: "individual-counselling-multiplied-by-two." Remember to always ask your potential counsellor: "what qualifies you to work with our relationship?" and trust your instincts based on the responses you hear.
- 1 Open Relationship Counselling for LGBT /QIA+
- 1.1 LGBT /QIA+ Open Relationships in Therapy
- 1.2 Defining an Open Relationship
- 1.3 Aims of Open Relationship Counselling
- 1.4 Nonnormative Therapy
- 1.5 Planning an Open Relationship
- 1.6 Puzzling out Relationship Behaviour
- 1.7 Therapy achieved alongside you
- 1.8 Two Video Devices
- 1.9 Counselling for a Gay / LGBTQ+ Couple's Sex Life
- 1.10 Choose: Unlimited or Set Number of Sessions
- 1.11 Different from Couple Counselling?
- 1.12 How a Relationship Counsellor Thinks
- 1.13 About Dean Richardson MNCS(Accred/Reg)