Thesis Title

What is Family? Examining Polyamorous Families: Implications for Art Therapists

Graduation Date

Spring 2012

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

Degree Granting Institution

Notre Dame de Namur University

Program Name

Art Therapy


John Lemmon, PhD

First Reader

Richard Carolan, EdD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

Vicki Bynum, MAEd, MFT, ATR


Families come in all shapes and sizes, yet Western culture sometimes fails to recognize this. Polyamorous families are a unique family structure that requires further research and consideration, especially polyamorous families raising children. There is also a growing need for therapists who are culturally sensitive to the needs a polyamorous individual or family might have. Art therapists especially may find themselves particularly suited in serving this population, especially when given the implication that a lack of language and a need for alternative methods of communication. This study examines self-identified polyamorous individuals’ perceptions of family through the use of a focus group setting. Resulting data showed a need for the ability to communicate about the experience of being polyamorous, fears about parental rejection, and a sense of confusion about what being a part of a polyamorous community might mean. Data from the focus group was used to place those experiences in the context of art therapy and hypothesize ways in which therapy and art therapy might address these key issues.