Title: A Therapist’s Guide to Consensual Nonmonogamy: Polyamory, Swinging, and Open

Authors: Rhea Orion, PhD

Year Published: 2018

Main Topics Covered: Relationships, Polyamory, Marriage, Consensual Nonmonogamy, Open Relationships, Swinging, Ethical Nonmonogamy

Written for: Therapists

Recommended for: Therapists, Practitioners

Perspectives Taken: Sex Positive, Open-minded, Polyamory, Open marriage

Type of Resource: Therapist Guide Book

APA Citation: Orion, R. (2018). A therapist’s guide to consensual nonmonogamy: Polyamory,
swinging, and open marriage. New York, NY: Routledge.

Book Overview:

Rhea Orion’s book is a resource for therapists who are looking for helpful mindsets,
information, and step-by-step guidelines to help clients navigate common themes and issues
around consensual nonmonogamy (CNM). It is geared towards therapists of all levels of
experience with consensual nonmonogamy, including those who are new to the topic. She brings
her years of experience in the field, cites current research and uses case study examples to
illustrate techniques and examples of healthy and dysfunctional consensual non-monogamous
relationships, as well as common societal attitudes and beliefs that may impact both therapists
and their clients. Her writing is down-to-earth and engaging.

Orion begins the book by encouraging open-mindedness and breaking down mainstream
ideas about relationships, dispelling many of them in the process. For example, how much sex
within a relationship leads to happiness? Spoiler – there isn’t a set amount. Is monogamy easy
for most people? No, it’s not – research shows that most of the population seem to have
difficulty maintaining exclusive sexual relationships. Though monogamy is a deeply rooted
societal norm, the freedom to have multiple partners (sexual and/or romantic) is becoming more
normalized in some parts of society. Though this smaller group is acting on an impulse many
individuals feel but resist, this lifestyle is still outside the norm.

What are the issues that consensual non-monogamous relationships face? Orion has
found that the main complaints for those in consensual non-monogamous relationships are: (1)
time management issues, (2) communication, (3) jealousy, (4) stigma, and (5) difficulty in
finding safe, effective help. If many of these may seem like familiar relationship issues – they
are. Individuals in traditional monogamous relationships may experience these same issues,
though they are less likely to experience (4) and (5) – a felt sense of stigma and a shortage of
help. However, with more partners involved, the issues are magnified in CNM relationships. The
increased complexity of CNM relationships requires therapists to be sufficiently prepared to
assist clients in dealing with these issues. Utilizing both research and experience, Orion suggests an
unwelcome truth: though our society proclaims monogamy as the norm, it is not the norm in
practice. Cheating is the result of monogamy that is preached but not practiced, and results in
feelings of guilt, resentment, hurt, and damage to relationships.

Therapists need to be aware of their own deeply rooted beliefs about consensual
nonmonogamy in order to be effective helpers in this area. They need to be up to date on
common CNM relationship styles, such as:
1. Polyamory (romantic, loving, and long-term)
2. Swinging (sexual in nature)
3. ‘Open relationships’ (primarily sexual in nature but can also be romantic).
The definitions and language therapists use in-session will depend on their clients – some
clients may detest labels, while others may have their own definition of what their relationship
means to them.

Orion advocates the benefits of ideal polyamory, which include more love and sex, personal
growth, deepened communication, and expanded families with shared responsibilities and
resources. An ‘open’ marriage can help to maintain intimacy and sexual relations for the
marriage, as well as averting boredom and stagnation. Clinicians who have not been sufficiently
trained in this area may inadvertently cause or perpetuate client distress rather than help, thereby
decreasing the odds that clients will experience positive outcomes. Some key factors therapists
need to keep in mind about CNM relationships are:
1. They require honesty
2. There is no one-size-fits all: CNM relationships are on a continuum
3. They require hard work
4. They have benefits and exists in various formats

Successful consensual nonmonogamy requires an emphasis on personal growth,
communication skills, valuing love and freedom over jealousy, strategies for managing jealousy,
creating and maintaining boundaries and rules, maintaining family commitments, good time
management, healthy self-esteem, and respect for each partner.

Orion’s clinician-focused guide to consensual nonmonogamy is a well-researched book
that provides techniques that can help therapists as well as individuals interested in enriching
their own lives in a CNM relationship. While it does not go into deep detail into each CNM
focused topic due to the breadth of information addressed, the book is a handy guide that
addresses most situations.

About the Author:

Dr. Rhea Orion, PhD, is a Sex Therapist certified by the American Association of Sex
Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. She holds a Doctorate in Psychology from Saybrook
University in California and has worked for decades as a marriage and family therapist, teacher,
sex and drug educator, and a spiritual emergency counsellor. She is also a Family and
Consumer Scientist with a degree in Child and Family Studies from the University of New

In addition to being a Family and Consumer Scientist with a degree in child and family
studies from the University of New Hampshire, Dr. Orion is a grandmother, writer, and cancer
survivor who has been certified by the Arthritis Foundation and the International Sports
Medicine Association to help with positive management for people living with arthritis,
disabilities, and chronic illness.