For Therapists

Quick Tip for Therapists: Working with Couples in Non-Traditional Relationships

How do you work with and understand couples who have a non-traditional lifestyle that may not align with your own? I answered this question for therapists who are subscribed to New Harbinger Publication’s e-newsletter list.

Working with Couples in Non-Traditional Relationships

What does it mean to work with couples in open marriages? Not all therapists personally agree with the concept of open marriage. However, you don’t have to change your values to treat couples who have chosen a lifestyle that doesn’t align with your own. It’s important to be aware of the myriad of possible non-traditional relationships you might encounter in your practice. Here are some examples:

Closed Marriage. This is what most of us think of when we picture “monogamy.” A closed marriage is one in which both partners agree to sexual and emotional fidelity.

Open Marriage. “Open” is a general term that covers many different types of marriage agreements, but usually is defined as leaving room for outside sexual partners. In open marriages, sexual encounters with people other than the spouse are accepted as part of the relationship agreement.

Polyamory. Poly comes from the Greek, meaning “many,” and the Latin amour, meaning “love,” so Polyamory defined means “many loves.” It is different from open marriage in that it’s not just ‘sex for fun’ with outside partners, but loving, romantic, and emotional connections with others outside of the marriage. Poly couples believe they can love more than one person at a time, and maintain a primary partner at the same time.

Swinging. Traditionally, swinging couples swapped partners for a fun sexual experience, purely for the eroticism. The North American Swing Club Association (NACSA) describes swinging as “the recreation” for couples whether they are married, committed (having an ongoing emotional relationship), living together (co-habitating, with or without an ongoing intimate relationship), or single couples who date. To learn more, visit:

In working with couples, one of the biggest challenges arises when one partner wants to open the marriage, while the other one does not.  One exercise therapists can use in a couples session is to have each partner write down their fears, fantasies, and desires with respect to the possibility of changing their monogamy agreements. Then have them share with one another, and discuss the power and potential of the answers. This exercise allows each partner to be heard, and when each experiences validation, they can usually come to agreements on what type of relationship they want going forward.

It’s advisable that partners examine every aspect of their monogamy continuum from fantasy to polyamory, to decide if they should—or if they want to—make changes to their marriage or relationship. It’s also important that the couple talk before, during, and after if they want to make any changes to their monogamy agreements—explicit or implicit—or after they’ve been hurt if one of them strays.

Can couples cheat in open marriages? Any time a partner goes outside of the agreement, they have violated their relationship, whether open or closed, fluid or flexible, and the root of the problem is usually dishonesty. The lies each partner tells usually begin long before the betrayal becomes concrete. Having an open discussion about how the dishonesty began is the first step toward healing the relationship.

Therapy should be a safe place with concrete therapeutic interventions to help anyone working on their relationship, regardless of its openness, its dimension, its phases of monogamy, or its form.

To receive future Quick Tips for Therapists from other New Harbinger authors and experts, subscribe to their e-newsletter list at

Last Call: Savings on Great Sex this Summer!

With summer coming to a close, children returning to school, and the temperatures beginning to drop, it’s a great time to create more heat in the bedroom with a more passionate and erotic sex life. We are still offering the following three teleclasses on Getting the Sex You Want at a 50% discount! Purchase all three classes together and save $222 on the total purchase price.

Getting the Sex You Want with Dr. Tammy Nelson (for Couples & Therapists), a 3-part teleclass with Dr. Tammy Nelson, *3 AASECT or IMAGO CEUs*
Teleclass Overview: Do you crave a more fulfilling sex life? Do you wish for a more intimate and emotionally rewarding relationship? Join one of the top experts in the field of love and eroticism for an open discussion on the keys to creating and sustaining passion in a long-term love affair with a partner and with yourself.

A Beginner’s Guide to Sharing Fantasies: How to Talk Dirty in Bed, a 90-minute teleclass with Dr. Tammy Nelson
Teleclass Overview: Do you want to create a more connected, more vital and erotic sex life? Even if you’ve been too afraid to share your fantasies, or if you have tried in the past and failed, this course will teach you to communicate your fantasies and desires.  Learn how to turn up the heat in your sex life and get it just right. Talking dirty can be hot and it can connect you in bed. But sometimes it can be hard to say out loud what you are really thinking.  Learn how to be honest, and whisper, shout, growl and reveal your most erotic longings.  Talking sexy will turn you on, turn your partner on and bring you to your most intimate moments together. Afraid?  What’s too much? How do you use the words you may never have said before?

Women & Sex: Women’s Sexual Questions & Confessions, a 2-hour teleclass with Dr. Tammy Nelson, *2 AASECT or IMAGO CEs*
Teleclass Overview: Do you wonder how to have a more intense or passionate sex life? Do you want a deeper emotional connection and at the same time reach great heights in bed? Do you want to communicate your inner fantasies? Most women have questions. This course will answer real questions from real women about sex.

Reminder: Writing and Publishing for Professionals this Fall

Do you have a writing project, a blog, an article, a book, or a screenplay, that you want to start, complete or publish? Then you don’t want to miss the next Writing and Publishing for Professionals series happening this fall. We are offering a discount for Imago therapists, but this workshop will give everyone the information you need to create, continue and give birth to your dreams.

In this workshop we will work on beginning an idea for a writing project, creating a plan, unblocking creative flow and writing a proposal. Participants will complete a submission for book proposals and publishing plans by the end of the 8th week: We will review the positives and negatives of self publishing versus publishing through a publishing house. We will review marketing plans and creation of social media platforms to launch a book into the world. Participants will learn the basics of a proposal and cover letter, outline and submission guidelines for books. Blogging and creating a plan for blogging will be explored. Participants will learn how to create time for writing and will receive feedback and critique for their writing, instructor feedback included in the course.

Writers need support, encouragement and feedback. A writers group can provide positive suggestion and critique to give guidance and direction to a project that is stuck or in the vision stage.

A group can inspire you and more importantly, motivate you to get started and to finish to completion a project. Being accountable to a group, completing writing exercises, getting and giving feedback, and creating a plan for submissions will help you as a writer complete your projects. The class will help you get through a first draft, a second, a third and maybe more. It will help you create a plan and a vision for publication!

Break through your writer’s block and register for Writing and Publishing for Professionals Fall 2015

This group is limited ­ reserve your spot now.

I will be presenting at the SSSS Annual Meeting in November!

I’m honored to announce that I will be presenting at The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality’s 2015 Annual Meeting, BEYOND BOUNDARIES: Exploring the Emerging Dimensions of Sexual Science in Research, Education and Practice, held November 12-15, 2015 at the Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town in Albuquerque, New Mexico USA.

Southwest design of Beyond Boundaries SSSS Conference logo

Beyond Boundaries SSSS Conference Logo


I will be presenting Writing and Publishing for Professionals – Finding a Topic, a Market, and Success

Most therapists have contributed important works to the professional field of sexuality.  Yet they may also want to do more.  A book is a dream for many clinicians, but a popular press publisher may seem out of reach.   This workshop will help therapists decide on how to choose a traditional publishing route versus self-publishing, how to find a literary agent, how to write a Query and a book proposal, and when to build a platform and how to do it.  We will also discuss what to what to write and how to find time to write.  We will share writing, and discuss how to nail down your niche and how to narrow your expertise.  Dr. Nelson is the author of three traditionally published nonfiction books, several eBooks, chapters and forwards in several professional books, many articles and journal pieces, has thousands of expert mentions, and has written a memoir that is now a novel and an upcoming screenplay for television.

  • Explore and decide on a topic for your book or article.
  • Create an outline for your Query letter, learn about book proposals and begin your journey toward publication.
  • Learn the difference between electronic publishing, self-publishing, and traditional publishing houses and decide which one is for you.
  • Find out how to create a social media platform and narrow down your niche, to capture the interest of a literary agent or editor.

This working will include real life examples of publishing potential for psychotherapists who want to write or publish.  Expanding into new fields of the publishing world, most therapists have the option to publish today, but are held back by lack of knowledge and will only be successful with a good editor, a literary agent and the right tools for publication.  This workshop will help attendees define their writing and publishing goals.


AND The New Monogamy; Redefining Relationships and Boundaries of Marriage in the New Millennium and Beyond

Monogamy is no longer the traditional agreement it was in the past generations. Couples today are negotiating their monogamy in new and creative ways involving different types of sexual commitments and, as a result, different types of issues around betrayal.  There are three stages of recovery after infidelity, regardless of online, in person or emotional cheating.  These three stages are clinically significant and must be understood in order to avoid retraumatizing couples in therapy, by recreating a victim/perpetrator model of treatment.  Although providers may have some knowledge of sexual health, most are limited in their experience of communication models and psychotherapeutic interventions after infidelity.  Redefining monogamy is instrumental in a cultural perspective but therapists must understand the difference between social trends and and global societal and relational challenges, and the advanced skills required to create sustainable marriage and committed partnership.

In this workshop, Participants will learn how to:

  • Identify 25 types of monogamous relationships with varied types of open sexual behaviors as well as nontraditional monogamous arrangements, including polyamorous, open, semi-open, and sex partnerships online with emotionally monogamous commitments.
  • Identify a re-membered Code of Honor that will define the contemporary couples monogamy as one of integration and a new form of transparency, even when it involves a departure from traditional sexual fidelity
  • Formulate an explicit monogamy agreement that challenges the implicit monogamy’s assumptions and hidden betrayals that have been negotiated in prenuptial and postnuptial monogamy arrangements and how defended psychological systems and collusion are created after infidelity
  • Review intentional divorce, marriage completion and  conscious uncoupling counseling techniques to help couples end their affairs and their marriage and committed partnerships without animosity or shame, in contrast to current models of abuse and financial devastation, without treatment failure for the therapist

The Intentional Divorce: Helping Couples Let Go with Dignity

I’ve always made it my primary goal to save the marriage, if at all possible; however, I’ve often felt that I was working harder at it than either of the partners involved, especially with the couples who come to my office only to check off an imaginary box—“tried couples therapy”—before heading off to consult their respective lawyers. Of course, even among these last-ditch efforts, some unhappy couples do find new and better ways of relating to each other during therapy and decide to stick together. But what I’ve come to realize is that once a marriage has sufficiently unraveled, therapy often hits an impasse, and divorce becomes an inevitable reality.

At one time in my career, I’d have considered divorce as an outcome of therapy to be a failure—by the couple and by me. But over the years, I’ve learned to think of it as another opportunity to help. I’ve come to realize that I can support divorcing couples by helping them explore viable alternatives to the often wounding and adversarial legal process that normally ends marriages—a process that can make what’s already a bad situation for the couple, their children, and their extended families incalculably worse. I’ve learned that I can help couples end their union in as thoughtful and pragmatic a way as possible. In other words, both partners can come through the experience with their dignity intact, their sanity whole, and in a greater spirit of cooperation and goodwill—attributes they’ll need as they continue to share responsibilities for their investments, their interests and their children.

Thus, when couples clearly intend to divorce, I often guide them through what I call an intentional divorce, which I reframe as not the end but the completion of their marriage.

Read the full article in The Psychotherapy Networker here

Want to learn more about helping couples face separation and divorce, how to introduce a process for healing with intention? October 2nd I will be teaching a free webinar for members with clear and effective treatment strategies to apply in your work with couples as they determine how to move toward a healthy separation when necessary.

Register for the webinar at

New Book for clinicians: Sex Made Simple by Barry McCarthy

I love to support friends and colleagues who are leaders in changing how we talk about sex within couples therapy. Barry McCarthy is doing just that with his newest book specially for clinicians dealing with sexual problems and sex therapy, Sex Made Simple: Clinical Strategies For Sexual Issues in Therapy. If you’re ready to integrate sex therapy into your Marriage and Family Therapy practice, start here and save 20% off Amazon’s price with this order form:
Sex Made Simple_ORDER NOW_Form2Sex Made Simple_ORDER NOW_Form2

New Webinar for Intentional Divorce after an Affair

I invite you to join me online in October for a special presentation for members. I will guide you through five essential strategies for helping couples facing separation and divorce, introduce a process for healing with intention, and provide interventions that facilitate couples as they navigate each stage of the process. You will learn clear and effective treatment strategies to apply in your work with couples as they determine how to proceed and to help them move toward a healthy separation when necessary.

Drawing upon my years of experience, we will look at case examples and evaluate contemporary treatment intervention strategies. You will acquire empowering techniques that will serve you and your clients as they intentionally and conscientiously close their relationships after infidelity, allowing all of you to avoid experiencing further trauma, chaos, or feelings of failure.

This intermediate, instructional level web conference is designed to help clinicians:

  • Define how to end a relationship with integrity and describe the importance of closure after an affair.
  • List five essential strategies in facilitating intentional divorce therapy after infidelity and explain how the process can be healing for couples.
  • Explain how partners collude with the narrative that leads to divorce, how healthy dissolution can be achieved, and how separation does not necessarily imply treatment failure, but can, in fact, help each person move toward a healthy individual and family life.
  • Describe the process for healing shame and helping couples move toward decision making, facilitate intervention, improve communication, work through grief, and cultivate a new vision for the future.If you have any questions or would like more information, please see the event listing on An Intentional Divorce After An Affair

20% of women in college are sexually assaulted

As a woman, a mother, a teacher, a therapist, I’m horrified and sad to know that 20% of women in college in the US experience sexual assault. This statistic has been challenged by men’s rights activists but a new study covering a wide variety of colleges indicates these figures may be accurate. (Source: That “flawed” statistic that 20% of women in college are sexually assaulted? It’s true

Thankfully, with more publicity and awareness, the volume on the discussion of sexual assault is being turned up in big ways. Colleges are increasing their prevention efforts including supporting education on campus focusing on consent.

This statistic also suggests that 1 in 5 women who attended college carry the trauma and emotional pain of having experienced sexual assault. It can be frightening to open up emotionally and physically with a loved one when memories of assault clutter your mind. But all hope is not lost, because you can heal your erotic relationship.

Reminder: New AASECT Supervision Group for EAST COAST

My new AASECT Supervision Group is great for anyone on the East Coast, you don’t have to be local! We will meet for four hours, so make it a day trip, or plan a working vacation!

Register for JUNE 26th GROUP (discounts for advance registration)
Registration is limited, first come first serve

This is AASECT Certification In-Person Supervision Groups (4 hours each)

June 26th, 2015 from 12:00 – 4:00 pm EDT

Meeting location: New Haven, Connecticut 06511

Each participant will have time to present cases, ask questions, and learn from other participants. Group leader, Dr. Tammy Nelson, is recognized expert in the field of sexuality, psychotherapy and relationships counseling.
Group discussion, case intervention and optional presentation may include videos. Suggestions for practice of hands on skills and therapeutic advanced skills offered. Resources, reading materials provided.

Maximum participation is encouraged. All experience and backgrounds are encouraged to participate, and all dynamics and approaches welcome.

AASECT Certification Hours Available

Register for a group by emailing and reserving your spot online at



Announcing: New In-Person AASECT Certification Supervision Group in New Haven, CT

I’m honored and excited to announce that I have launched a new in-Person AASECT certification supervision group that will meet at my office in New Haven, CT starting July 26!

Each group will meet for four hours, from 12 noon until 4 pm Eastern time. There are three dates to choose from: July 26, Sept 25 or Oct 23, 2015. Please indicate your choice of day at time of registration.

I have also extended my Online Group Supervision and have a couple of openings in two phone/online Supervision groups:

June 4, June 25 and July 9th Thursdays 10:30am to 12:00pm

June 1, June 15, June 29 and July 13th Mondays 3:30 to 5:00pm

Register for a group by emailing and reserving your spot here.

Working in a group setting with a PhD Board Certified, Master Level, Expert therapist, supervision will give you a chance to share your cases and hear ample feedback and receive interventions and direction from me, and from the group.

Each participant will have time to present cases, ask questions, and learn from other participants. Group discussion, experiential intervention and optional homework may include reading material, videos, and other suggestions for practice of hands on skills. Maximum participation is encouraged. All experience and backgrounds are encouraged to participate, and all dynamics and approaches welcome.

Supervision for beginners to advanced practitioners
Special topics and expertise include couples therapy, sexuality, infidelity
AASECT supervision for sex therapists and educators
Supervision for LPCs and other consultation available upon request