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I’m DONE: the ultimate lesson on persistence!



I’m DONE: the ultimate lesson on persistence!

I am so happy to say I am now on the other side of this journey- I now hold a Doctor of Education degree in Human Sexuality! I realized that I have written in length about my process and like any other story, the ending is just as important so I would like to share it with you.

Thankfully, I survived the defense of my final doctoral project! Hooray, because I sure was nervous about it.  I mean, it is incredibly vulnerable to work on something non-stop for 5 months and then say, “here’s what I did, what do you think?” Ok, so I didn’t exactly say that, but pretty dang close.

Fortunately, I presented first (there were four of us total for the day which can make for a long day of presentations). Because of this (and hopefully their interest in my particular study) the audience was very engaged. They had great questions and feedback. I even had one person share that they would like to build upon my research (this is a total WIN considering there is minimal research on the topic currently and my study was the first of its kind)! Additionally, there were five audience members who asked for a copy of my full project!

I don’t really remember anything else about my defense. Even 10 days out, I am still processing the experience and what it really means for me. What has become most clear to me in this entire process though is how persistence pays off. I pushed and pushed no matter how exhausted, frustrated, or scared I was and I am so grateful for this. I will always hold this close to my heart: no matter the obstacles, I can and will succeed (and you can too)!

I want to give a very public thank you to several people. First to my husband, who has been here through it all with patience, love, and support, thank you. I <3 you!



To Dr. Emma Myers: to quote you, “we have been to hell and back” together in this journey and I look forward to what the future holds for us, thank you.




To my family: thank you for being patient with me and unwavering in your support of me in these 10 years- present on my toughest days, my graduations, and every day in between (here are just some of my family members).


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I also realize I haven’t shared the topic of my doctoral project which I think is valuable. The title of my final doctoral project is, “The Study of How a Psychotherapist’s Education Impacts their Competency, Comfort, and Attitudes in Consensual Non-Monogamous Relationships”. Essentially, I determined if the practicing psychotherapists (therapists, counselors, social workers, and psychologists) of Colorado had any education on consensual non-monogamy in their Masters programs and if so, how much and what kind. I then determined if there was any relationship between the clinician’s education and their competency, comfort, and attitudes towards this population.

I chose this topic shortly after I started my doctoral program after realizing I was in the minority, I was a married and monogamous person. A large percentage of my peers were in some kind of consensual non-monogamous relationship. It left me perplexed about why I hadn’t learned anything about these other relationship configurations in my program while there were clearly lots of people in relationships that weren’t strictly monogamous.

I began to feed my curiosity with talking to my peers, reading what I could, and attending a three day conference. I also learned of what some of the expected norms were for those in the consensual non-monogamous population and their experiences with psychotherapists. This solidified my need to do my doctoral project on this. I knew that we couldn’t improve the education in Masters programs until we knew if there was any and if so, how much and what kind.

My findings were both impressive and very telling. I have some grand plans for this data. I want to use it to improve the field of psychotherapists which in turn will hopefully positively improve the experiences of those who are in consensual non-monogamous relationships in their work with these professionals. But first, I am going to take a much needed break from this research. I am so excited to have the time and energy to focus on filling my time with clients – what I have worked hard for 10 years to do- as well as writing an exciting e-book that I will let you know about as soon as it is completed.


Thank you for your words of encouragement, energy, and support! Remember, persistence pays off- you absolutely have it in you to achieve whatever it is you want!


Until next time,



headshotAbout the Author:

Dr. Lily A. Zehner, MFT-C is a therapist who specializes in sex, intimacy, and relationships. Her private practice is located in Denver where she helps others reach their fullest relational and sexual potential. To learn more about her and her services, please feel free to take a look around her website.

About the Author