Imago Relationship Therapy is an approach to couples counseling that is based on the concept of active listening. It was developed by Dr. Harville Hendrix and Dr. Helen Hunt over 25 years ago, and has been used successfully to help thousands of couples improve their relationships. Imago therapists are trained and certified in Imago Relationship Therapy.
The word imago is Latin for “image” and refers to the “unconscious image of familiar love”. Imago Relationship Therapy is based on the idea that each person has a set of core beliefs and ideas about relationships shaped from their childhood experiences. These images form the basis upon which we interact with the world and those in it.
Left unaddressed, these conflicts will arise again and again, overshadowing all of the positive aspects of the relationship. When partners come together, they each bring their own set of these core issues. It is where these issues clash that problems in the relationship arise.
For example, if you often felt belittled as a child, you may experience any feedback from your partner as belittling or demeaning. You process “feedback” (positive or not) through the filter of your childhood impressions. Up go the emotional walls and communication breaks down. Left unaddressed, these conflicts will arise again and again, overshadowing all of the positive aspects of the relationship.
The goal of Imago is to help couples reduce the negativity, blame and criticism in their relationship and become more empathetic and understanding with each other. This growth comes via the Imago Dialogue, which is a powerful process of recognizing and healing one’s core issues and learning the communication skills needed for a healthier marital relationship.
What To Expect
So what can you expect when you see a therapist who uses the Imago approach?
Throughout the Imago Dialogue process, you will spend a great deal of time talking directly with your partner in a positive, structured way. One of the first things you’ll notice when you enter your session is that there are two chairs facing each other and not the therapist’s seat. This seating configuration places the emphasis on your relationship.
Your therapist will introduce the use of the mirroring technique – a powerful tool that encourages listening without judgment or reactivity. There will be a discussion of the need for safety and being able to express oneself openly. Your therapist will guide each of you through an exploration of the connections between childhood experiences and the struggles in your relationship.
The role of the therapist is to teach and coach you and your partner as a couple, as you each learn to work with your own issues and conflicts as you strengthen your communication and connectedness to each other. The therapist’s role is not to mediate for you, speak for you or to referee arguments.
As you progress, you will learn to recognize and navigate those sensitive spots that are so often the source of unintended hurts. Your therapist may give you and your partner things to do outside of the sessions. You’ll learn ways of communicating with your partner that build trust and connectedness as well as ways to put fun and romance back into your relationship.
Learn more about Imago Relationship Therapy here.
You can learn about other couples therapy methodologies here.