Prism Blog, Sex & Relationships

How to Talk to Your Doctor About Polyamory

 

Bringing up alternative relationships styles with a doctor can be intimidating, especially when you don’t know for sure what their experience is with these topics. However, to get the care you need, it can be important for your doctor to know your relationship status. HSDP‘s most recent workshop focused on working with polyamorous patients in clinic: how we can create a safe space for patients to talk about their relationships without being judged. This is a followup post to Talking to Your Doctor About BDSM.

For Poly Patients:

  • You may first want to decide what you want your doctor to know about your personal life based on what is necessary for your care.
    • For example, perhaps it is relevant to tell your doctor that you are in multiple relationships when you have a questions about safer sex practices, but not when you are going in for a flu shot.
    • You may decide that you personally feel more comfortable when you can be open about your identity or relationship status with every doctor, regardless of the reason for visit.
  • The most important thing to remember when talking to your doctor about topics that may be new to them, is that they are primarily looking out for your safety. This means that it’s especially important to remain confident when talking about issues like poly and kink that could be seen as related to partner abuse.
    • Let your provider know that you are happy and feel empowered by polyamory, if that is true for you, so that they don’t have reason to suspect that you are in a dangerous situation.
    • However, if you are actually in a dangerous or uncomfortable situation and want to discuss this with your provider, it is okay to bring that up as well. Many poly people feel that they need to constantly “prove” to monogamous people that being poly is healthy and makes everyone happy, and because of this they may feel reluctant to bring up issues that they actually want to talk about.
    • Remember to take care of yourself, your doctor is there to support you and you have the right to get the help you want. If you feel judged by your doctor for seeking help, or you feel you are not getting the care you want because they are not educated about your lifestyle, consider getting a recommendation from a friend for a new doctor!

For Poly Healthcare Practitioners:

  • The number one thing to keep in mind, with this and any other topic you may be unfamiliar with, is simply to maintain a professional, nonjudgmental attitude when talking to your patients.
    • Though actually knowing about and understanding topics like polyamory is helpful, you can still be an effective practitioner simply by keeping an open mind and paying attention to what your patients are asking of you.
  • Related to this, keep your assumptions at bay. Don’t automatically assume that your poly patient is more likely to get an STI. In fact, most polyamorous people are much more STI aware and are more likely to have safer sex than monogamous people, partly because they have more people to be accountable to.
    • This applies to all aspects of a patients life: don’t assume they’re straight, don’t assume their gender, don’t assume they can afford to pay for the prescription you give them, etc.
    • You can ask more broad questions, like “What safe sex practices do you use?”, “Are you currently dating?/What is your current relationship status?”, and “What genders do you usually date?”. These questions are great because they don’t assume that the patient is having sex, that they use or need birth control, nor do they assume anything about their sexual identity or relationship status.
  • If you are truly concerned for a patient’s mental health or physical safety (and not just because you have not educated yourself about poly relationships), you can ask questions like “Do you feel safe at home?” or “Do you have a support system or someone to talk to?” to decide whether you need to take further steps.

More Helpful Resources:

What Psychologists Should Know About Polyamory

Kinkopedia: Solo Polyamory

Solopoly.net

What Health Professionals Need to Know

A Poly Metaphor


All information in this blog is for educational uses only. Always consult your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements, or changing or discontinuing your medications.


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For Providers, Prism Blog, Transgender Wellness

3 Ways for Healthcare Providers to Respect Diversity

  • Avoid making harmful assumptions about your patient. Whether you’re assuming they’re straight, cisgender, uneducated, dealing with addiction, or any number of things, any time you’re assuming rather than asking and listening to your patient you aren’t giving them the care they deserve. (For example, don’t ask a patient about her boyfriend when she hasn’t told you her sexuality or relationship status. In fact, personal questions like this are really only relevant if your patient brings them up first.)
  • Listen to your patient’s primary symptom and make sure to address it, regardless of other things you’ve learned (or assumed) about their health during the interview. Regardless of drug use, body size, relationship style, gender identity, mental illness, or any other issue, your patient won’t come back if you treat what you’ve decided is most pertinent to their health rather than what’s most important to them. This may seem obvious, but these kind of mistakes happen a lot. (For example, don’t treat a patient for weight loss who has come to see you for headaches!)
  • First and foremost we are here for our patients’ health and well-being. Never ask a patient about changing their lifestyle or identity. Furthermore, make sure you are not using up their valuable appointment time by trying to educate yourself. Look things up online on your own time if you need to learn more and save appointment time for your patient.
  • Provide gender neutral bathrooms. 
    • Who can benefit from gender neutral bathrooms? Parents with children of a different gender, people with an attendant of a different gender, trans* people, and individuals with non-normative gender presentations.
    • Why are gender neutral bathrooms important for trans* people? When a bathroom is gender neutral, trans* people can use it without risking harassment or violence from people who think they are in the “wrong” restroom. Access to gender neutral bathrooms also prevents UTIs and other health issues caused by “holding it” until a safer restroom is available.

All information in this blog is for educational uses only. Always consult your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements, or changing or discontinuing your medications.


Contact us to see if your insurance covers services at our office!

Join the Prism Family! Subscribe to our newsletter and get $30 off your first visit.