EXAND YOUR SEMIOLOGY
And things to consider when hiring one
By Jessica Levity Daylover
Ever since I started making polyamory content last year, I’ve seen a lot of the major polyam accounts offering services like peer-to-peer support as well as “coaching”. I’ve also seen a lot of big accounts speak out against these things, though their positions are usually vague in reasoning. But since many of them who speak out against are licensed therapists, I can assume it’s because they’ve seen the harm in a bunch of unlicensed, under-educated fucktwats walking around causing harm to their vulnerable clients and then charging them for it. They’ve probably even seen some shit firsthand walking into their offices, and then they have to clean up the mess. (Being a part of the war between unlicensed, under-educated Midwives in Nevada and the rest of the birth community, I totally get it.)
Let’s be real-- there are few things more annoying than some untrained, disillusioned millennial calling themselves a “life coach”. Picture it: one of us basic white girls, wearing a flat-brimmed, neutral colored hat and overpriced Urban Outfitters (I know you know what I’m talking about); she somehow has 30,000 followers on Instagram (she’s hot and takes pretty pictures); she makes highly-filtered, cookie-cutter trendy reels, set to music. Does she ever really say anything of substance? No. But somehow she’s charging you $5000 for a “coaching program”, in which you’ll learn how to sell coaching programs for $5000.
*cough MLM cough*
And hey, guess what! She’s also available for one-on-one coaching where she’ll help you take a look at your life and show you the areas where you could be a better manifestor and boss babe (but don’t ask her what role whiteness plays in “the art of manifesting”, lest you break her “good vibes only” bubble).
At best she went through some self-accredited program, in which you can miraculously get “certified” in *sales pitch voice* ONE WEEKEND ONLY!
At worst she lacks all training and self-awareness, and spends her overpriced sessions projecting her own wounding onto you, offering incorrect and pushy advice instead of practicing reflective listening and asking you probing questions, and then gaslighting you when you call her out on some problematic behavior. She has no regulating board behind her, and without that, the only place to file a complaint is to write a review or speak your own testimony publicly. Capitalism will tell you, “if you don’t like her, just don’t support her”, leaving victims of her services in a place lacking any real justice.
I see the case against, I really do. But I’d like to offer now a case in support of peer-to-peer aid and coaching from our favorite content creators who feel called to offer it. And I offer this to you not just as someone who offers this service herself, but more as someone who uses this service and is deeply grateful for it.
At the end of my pregnancy and shortly after, I was (am still?) in some dark, painful growth periods on my polyamory journey. This path is like an onion...you know, layers and shit. Never ending. Always opening the door for personal growth, blah blah blah.
Because my family’s income falls inside the poverty level, I qualified for Medicaid (America’s socialized health insurance for us poors) while I was pregnant. What a fucking blessing. (In October during my second trimester I went through a really scary illness and didn’t have to hesitate to take myself to the ER in the middle of the night, *and* I got to opt into all the testing they wanted to do because I knew I didn’t have to pay for it. What a luxury. Yay, socialized medicine.)
Anyway, my mental health started to spiral, triggered mostly by my struggles inside several relationships. I found a prenatal therapist who was covered by Medicaid and I was super lucky to have a schedule flexible enough to always just take spots where she had cancellations (her client waitlist was actually 3+ months for those without the flexibility). I asked her if she supported polyamory, she said yes. But I could tell she didn’t fucking get it.
She never shamed me or anything like those horror stories we hear about actual licensed therapists harming their polyam and queer clients because they don’t know how to therapize outside the scope of the cis het monogamous capitalist patriarchy. But...it was clear she was mesmerized by the dynamics of polyamory, and each session felt like more of a salacious gossip fest than fucking therapy. It annoyed me a lot, and if I had been paying my own money for it, I would have quit.
There’s been a wave of young, queer, polyam folks getting their master’s degrees to become real therapists, and that’s fucking amazing. And many of them are even working to create deep change within how the APA educates students on handling these nuanced identities, but the change desperately needed hasn’t manifested yet across the board. And furthermore, what do people do when you’re not in network? What do people do when they’re uninsured? When the waitlists for the polyam therapists are 3+ months? When you don’t have the same skin color as the therapist you’ve been assigned? What if the therapist has never given birth or been a parent or knows even one ounce of the darkness of that very particular journey?
I always tell people who reach out to me for coaching via instagram or my podcast that they should seek support from the creator who they feel most aligned with. So often there’s some content creator, somewhere, consistently posting the shit you need to hear, when you need to hear it. That’s typically a sign for me that that’s the person I want to hire.
When I was at my darkest point, I reached out to Evita Sawyers (@lavitaloca34). That’s the creator who always seems to be preaching the Word to me. She’s queer, she’s polyamorous, she’s a MOTHER. Her personal wisdom means more to me than anything she could learn in a Master’s program sanctioned by the APA.
She scheduled me for just 2 days later, and I could pay $40 cash for a 30 minute session with her. Amazing.
I think I spent the first 5 minutes catching her up on the plot points of my story, as well as my inner turmoil, and in literally the first two minutes she asked me THE question I needed to be asked, and said THE affirmation I needed to hear. We spent the remaining 23 minutes just chatting-- two queer, polyamorous mamas, examining the times this particular lesson has occurred in each of our lives before, unpacking the personal mythology of it all, and just generally bonding in our shared wisdom. That session was invaluable to me, and it allowed me to take the next step I had desperately been resisting taking. I’d pay $40 a month just to be in the presence of someone as wise as Evita.
And there are many other polyam content creators I’m regularly in awe of-- who push me to new places, help me reflect on old beliefs, etc. And when I’m called, I hire the ones I feel called to heal with, and send tips in gratitude of content to others’ Venmos, because motherfuckers deserve to be paid for their time, regardless of their “accreditation”.
My point is: not supporting peer-to-peer services, or self-proclaimed polyamory coaches, is a very privileged stance. People have straight up told me to “find a real therapist”, but a bitch can’t afford one, okay?? And the ones I have had were the fucking worst when it came to the nuances of my identity. If I never waste another therapy session teaching my therapist about polyamory, while THEY charge ME for it, I’ll die slightly happier.
And trust me when I tell you how deeply ironic all of this is. In 2020 I left the world of coaching behind (I was a spiritual/intuitive coach who graduated from an intensive two-year program), and ended up launching @RemodeledLove, where my intention was merely to create content and share wisdom as a queer, polyamorous mama. So when my DMs started blowing up with requests for support or coaching, I was like, Okay, Universe, I see you.
I resisted it for a long time, but once I started working with people, I saw that the people hiring me were people who resonated with my content. I found myself using my coaching tools in a powerful way to share wisdom with my polyam brethren, and I could begin to release the imposter syndrome I felt.
I consider myself deeply lucky to have the training I have (the two year coaching program, plus a decade as an educator in many fields). I actually considered becoming a licensed counselor at one point, but ya girl is sitting on an evil amount of student loan debt from her fucking Bachelor’s degree, so I said fuck capitalism, and literally paid for my two-year program through trade (which is still a privilege because I have a fair amount of valuable skills to offer businesses within the realm of marketing).
Am I one of the “acceptable” freelance coaches because I am lucky enough to have some training? Does my Bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin - Madison (Go, Badgers) with a double major in Philosophy and Sociology and a minor in Gender/Sexuality make me qualified? You rarely even hear me talk about this shit (in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned my boujee, accredited background on @RemodeledLove).
And because of my extensive training, I have a line of ethics in my practice. My clients start all sessions with reminders that I am NOT a licensed therapist. I practice reflective listening and am constantly preambling phrases with “if this were me”, and “what this brings up for me”, and “in my personal experience”. Ask any of my regular clients and they’ll tell you that I am constantly saying “Remember that I am biased and always prone to projection, but, here’s what I’m seeing in this situation…”.
After I ask probing questions, I give examples from my personal journey, and then offer outside resources I think might take them further. I am often referring out to other people at the end of sessions when I can tell there is something happening outside of the scope of my wisdom. And when a client tells me they’re also in therapy, even better! -- let’s have an orgy of wisdom from all parties in support of your path. Take what resonates with you and leave the rest, is my motto.
I understand that a lot of these untrained “OMG YOU GUYS I’M A LIFE COACH NOW” folks do damage because they don’t do those things I just listed. But instead of speaking out against peer support, can we instead focus on educating people who might be interested in hiring a coach or peer support person? What types of questions should they be asking in the interview phase?
If you’re reading this right now and have more ideas about questions people should be asking their potential peer support and polyam coaches, please comment or DM! I’m going to start a resource list, so that we can focus on educating people who desire to hire outside a licensed therapist, instead of just closing down a whole avenue of desperately needed support.
I think I’ll end with this: I support both traditional therapy as well as peer support coaches, but I realize my biases play into my opinion and I am very open to being wrong.
I’m always open to being wrong.
But my bias for peer support isn’t because I offer this service, but because I need this service (and because I’ve been burned by traditional therapy, and don’t have Medicaid anymore). In fact, peer support groups have historically done more for me than any therapist ever has. Al-anon and several other 12 Step programs have been a lighthouse in some of the darkest chapters in my life so far. Al-Anon is where I finally dealt with the root of my codependence and, if you work with me, you’ll see so much of the wisdom of the 12 Steps in my practice. And though I never paid my sponsor for her time, you better believe I fucking would have. She was such an incredible source of unconditional love and guidance for me.
Anyway, this has been on my heart, and now it’s on my blog.
Thanks for reading.
Your Polyamorous Mama,
Jessica Levity Daylover
Support my work:
>> Paypal - firstname.lastname@example.org
>> Venmo - @jessica-levity