Caitlyn M. Burns, Ph.D., is a 2023 graduate of the PhD Program in Marriage and Family Therapy at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee:

  • Markie Twist, PhD, Committee Chair
  • Janet Robertson, PhD, Committee Member
  • Christopher K. Belous, PhD, Committee Member


mononormativity, relational therapy, monogamism, queer theory, case conceptualization, treatment planning

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This study aimed to explore how relational therapists in the United States conceptualize cases and treatment plan when working with consensually non-monogamous clients and how dominant discourses about relationships (mononormativity) influence relational therapists during this process through a queer theory lens. This was a grounded theory study and surveyed a sample of thirty relational therapists or therapists-in- training. Results showed relational therapists conduct conceptualization and treatment planning through a two-part process. Therapists intend to treat CNM clients the same as any other client, but are unable to do so due to dominant discourses of mononormativity. Furthermore, mononormative discourses influenced relational therapists’ case conceptualization and treatment planning in three ways: viewing CNM as part of the problem, feeling they cannot use traditional relational therapy models and techniques unless a dyad is practicing monogamy, and/or not consider contexts/resources unique to CNM relationships. These findings provide important implications about the impact of mononormative biases and scripts in relational therapy, and the ways relational therapists reinforce monogamism and dominant discourses in their clinical practice, and the need for more inclusive training.


Caitlyn M. Burns

ORCID Scholar ID# 0009-0007-8916-0666