Opening the Relationship: Couple and Family Therapy with Alternative Family Structures and Polyamorous Relationships

Recorded Webinar
Instructor:  Shannon L. Sennott, LICSW, CST
CEs: 2 CEs 
Level: Intermediate
Target Audience: Social workers and other social service providers.
Course Delivery Method and Format: Recorded webinar, self study. All courses are hosted on SmithOnline. Login information will be emailed immediately after registration to the email address entered during registration.
System Requirements: Attendees will need access to a computer with internet and the capability to play recorded videos.

Date of original webinar: March 11, 2021

The Alternative Family Structures Approach (AFSA), created by Shannon Sennott, is an eight-session foundational guide for clinicians who are working with clients who wish to be in consensually non-monogamous relationships or redefine their family structure to include other emotional, sexual, or intimate partnerships. This workshop leads clinicians through the eight-session arc, offering therapeutic tools and structures to make meaning and create shared language about things that have only previously existed in unspoken forms for clients. 

The AFSA approach is general enough that it can support all kinds of variations and constellations of relationship orientations and structures. This approach supports a partnership that is considering opening their relationship after years of being monogamous, or relationships that are having difficulty finding compromises within their polyamorous commitment that is already present, and all that lies in between and beyond. We remind clients that these are often not skills of communication that were learned as an early blueprint in families of origin for clients. Therefore, it can be helpful to have a therapist attune to the meta-communication of the partnership while working within a structured approach, to aid partnerships in finding language and agreements that meet everyone in the relationships’ needs.

The Alternative Family Structures Approach has an assessment component and an agreement planning component. AFSA is founded on transfeminist and feminist thought, social justice frameworks and principles of allyship (Sennott, 2011, Smith & Sennott, 2011). AFSA can be understood as a lens for other therapeutic models and orientations (i.e., CBT, DBT, Individual, Group or Family Treatment). AFSA is designed for affirming clinical treatment with polyamorous, consensually non-monogamous and open relationship systems.

Registration Fees and Deadlines:

$45 (one time registration fee of $5) | Ongoing

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify relational crises and risks in a partnership before conducting a sexual and intimate history assessment. 
  2. Describe the process of taking a sexual and intimate history and be able to prepare a client for this assessment.
  3. List five aspects of supporting clients in agreement planning, contracting and commitments.


  • Noon - 12:15 p.m. ET: Introduction to Alternative Family Systems Approach
  • 12:15 - 12:30 p.m. ET: Relationship assessment and love story
  • 12:30 - 12:45 p.m. ET: Relationship foundations and structures
  • 12:45 - 1 p.m. ET: Quality and quantity of romantic and intimate connection in relationship
  • 1 - 1:20 p.m. ET: Sexual History Assessment
  • 1:20 - 1:40 p.m. ET: Agreement planning and commitments
  • 1:40 - 2:00 p.m. ET: Wrap-up and questions

About the Instructor:

Shannon L. Sennott, LICSW, CST, is the co-founder of Translate Gender, Inc. and the Center for Psychotherapy and Social Justice, she was clinically trained at the Smith College School for Social Work and the Eastern Group Psychotherapy Society in New York City, and is an AASECT certified sex therapist. Sennott is an adjunct faculty member at the Smith College School for Social Work, teaching family theory and sex theory Sennott alsomaintains a full time private practice at the Center for Psychotherapy and Social Justice in Northampton, Massachusetts. Sennott utilizes a transfeminist therapeutic approach in her work with individuals, adolescents and families, her interests extend to working with couples, consensually non-monogamous and polyamorous relationships and groups, and she especially enjoys working with those in alternative family structures. Her clinical orientation is influenced by both narrative therapy and dialogic practice traditions. Sennott’s  published paper in Women and Therapy Journal, introduces her transfeminist therapeutic approach, Gender Disorder as Gender Oppression: A Transfeminist Approach to Rethinking the Pathologization of Gender Non-Conformity. More recently, Sennott delivered the keynote for the Ackerman Institute for the Family annual conference in 2018 and she is enjoying clinically supervising and training other clinicians, institutions and organizations in their work with erotically marginalized people.  Her recent publication with Routledge Books is titled, Sex Therapy with Erotically Marginalized Clients: Nine Principles of Clinical Support.  

Completion Requirements for Recorded Webinars and Online Courses.

To receive a CE certificate, you must complete the entirety of the recorded webinar or recorded video presentation. Partial credit will not be awarded to those who attend only a portion of the class. For recorded webinars and online courses, participants must complete an evaluation and a post test, noting the length of time to complete the course. Participants must earn a minimum score of 80 percent on the post test in order to earn CEs. Retesting is allowed up to five (5) times. If a passing score is not achieved, CEs will not be awarded. Links to the evaluation and post test are available in SmithOnline. Participants must also complete an attestation of completion for each fully completed course. A copy of the attestation is available in SmithOnline. It is attendee’s responsibility to contact their state licensing board/certification boards to determine eligibility to meet continuing education requirements.

How Will a CE Certificate Be Awarded?

Upon completing the course evaluation, successfully passing the post test and submitting the attestation, participants will be emailed their online certificate​ within 30 days of course completion​. ​Participants should save and/or print ​the certificate upon receipt for ​their records. Receiving the CE certificate is contingent on submitting attestion, completion of the evaluation and passing the post test.

Continuing Education Credits and Approvals for This Course

Continuing Education (CE) credits offered vary by course. This course only offers the CE credits listed below.  It is the attendees' responsibility to contact their licensing board to determine eligibility to meet continuing education requirements.


Smith College School for Social Work, #1755, is approved as an ACE provider to offer social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. Regulatory boards are the final authority on courses accepted for continuing education credit. ACE provider approval period:11/19/2021-11/19/2024 . Social workers completing this course receive 2 clinical continuing education credits.


Smith College School for Social Work is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and is therefore authorized to provide CEs as a postsecondary institution accredited by CSWE in many states. Courses offered through the School’s Program of Professional Education are awarded continuing education credits in accordance with Continuing Education Regulation 258, CMR, 31.00 in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 

NY State

Smith College School for Social Work is recognized by the New York State Education Department's State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers #SW-0169.

Not Approved for Counselors (LMHC/LPC)

Smith College School for Social Work has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 7110. This program does NOT qualify for NBCC ACEP approval.