Date of Conferral





Counselor Education and Supervision


Jason Patton


Monogamy is considered the romantic norm for establishing family and kinship. Alternative relationships such as polyfidelity, that is, a group romantic relationship, often face prejudice and social stigma resulting in a greater need for mental health counseling services compared to those who are not stigmatized. Yet counselors and counselor educators lack both understanding and cultural competency for serving this population. The purpose of this study was to better understand the dynamics of a polyfidelity relationship, as well as how a counselor might better serve the needs of individuals engaged in this type of relationship. In this study, 14 participants described what it was like to be in a polyfidelitous relationship. A combined theoretical framework-based on relational cultural theory, social constructionism, and queer theory was used to reveal the challenges, as well as the strengths, of such a relationship. It was discovered that there are an exponential number of relationship combinations when introducing an additional member into an existing 2-person relationship. As a result the relational component in counseling becomes compounded. For example, a 3-person relationship has 4 unique relationships, a 4-person relationship has 11 unique relationships, and a 5-person relationship has 26 unique relationship combinations. In addition, members of group relationships often use their group dynamics to check and balance one another, resolve conflict, and better express aspects of each partner's personality. The implications for social change are multifold in both furthering mental health professional's understanding of alternative families, as well as identifying the advantages and pitfalls of engaging in a polyfidelitous relationship.