What Is Imago Therapy?

What Is Imago Relationship Therapy?

What Is Imago Therapy?

Imago Relationship Therapy is primarily used with couples. However, it is also leveraged in individual therapy for those who want to improve communication and develop a deeper connection with relationships in their life.

Imago Relationship Therapy (aso known as Imago Couples Therapy) is an opportunity where couples relate to each other more healthily and effectively. As a result, Imago Therapy turns misunderstandings into opportunities to know each other in a better way and strengthen the relationship.

One of the premises of Imago Relationship Therapy is that your early childhood experiences impact your adult relationships and teach you things about yourself. Therefore, those early experiences mold your sense of identity and self-worth when it comes to love and being loved.

For example, have you ever noticed that when you experience conflict in a relationship that it brings up some familiar emotional wounds? That is because Imago suggests that you choose partners who feel familiar to you.

However, by learning the techniques of Imago Relationship Therapy, you have the opportunity to heal and grow together.

It is important to say that your relationship or life doesn’t have to conflict in order to receive Imago Relationship Therapy. That is to say, it has the power to increase self-awareness, strengthen relationships, and develop skills that will help deal with conflict in a healthy way. Some of the ways that Imago Therapy can help with include:

  • Develop effective communication grounded in connection
  • Learn how to be more empathetic
  • Gain skills on how to deal with conflict in a way that promotes healing and growth
  • Increase self-awareness about behavior patterns
  • Build trust and safety in relationships
  • Develop relationship satisfaction
  • Improve your interpersonal skills
  • Develop conscious and authentic relationships
  • Change behavior that does not serve you
  • Understand early attachments and how they impact your adult relationships

What are the techniques of Imago Therapy or Imago Relationship Therapy (IRT)?

The primary technique used in Imago Therapy is the Imago Dialogue. To learn this technique effectively to then use it in relationships, a trained Imago therapist best facilitates it.

The imago dialogue is a three-part conversation process about safety and connection.

As a result, the main rule is that during Imago Dialogue, one person speaks (sends) while the other person listens (receives).

A suggestion that Dr. Hendrix gives is to start by asking for the time to talk. This helps lower any defenses. Example: “Is now a good time to talk about _____?” If the other party says that it is not a good time, it is important to receive feedback on when a good time will be rather than leaving you hanging.

The dialogue goes through the following steps:


This step aims to listen to understand through the process of repeating back what you heard for clarification and understanding. For example, if the listener adds in, “Is there more about that? (said with interest),” it tells your loved one that you’re interested in what they are sharing.


This step is crucial to know that just because you validate does not mean that you agree. In other words, each individual possesses their own inner logic.

However, the wonderful thing about validation is that it allows the relationship to become a safe space for problem-solving.

Therefore, being present with your loved one with safety and no judgment creates a sense of trust and understanding.


This is the part of the dialogue where there is an opportunity for deeper connection through empathizing with your loved one. The receiver shares what they think their loved one may be feeling from an emotional standpoint. By doing this, they are letting their loved ones feel heard.

Additionally, at the end of the dialogue, the sender (person talking) could increase the connection even further by asking for one small positive request. An example that Dr.

Hendrix provides is “It could be something as simple as ‘could you give me a hug’ or ‘could you say something that you love about me’”

How Imago Relationship Therapy is used in Individual Therapy

For individuals, Imago Relationship Therapy can help in many ways, and here are a few:

Understand Relationship Patterns Better

It can allow you better to understand your childhood relationships on a deeper level. By doing this, you will be able to learn skills that result in healthier relationships.

Entering The Dating Scene

It helps if you consider to enter the dating scene and don’t want to repeat old patterns of attracting partners who are more familiar with your childhood wounds.

It allows you to have a greater sense of awareness of your dating patterns and choices in relationships.

As a result, you will have greater success in establishing a healthier relationship and having greater compassion for your partner.

If You Have ADHD

This therapy is beneficial for clients who are suffering from ADHD. Adults with ADHD experience relationship challenges, especially with communication.

For example, impulsivity often leads to interruptions, and the difficulty in focusing can cause their mind to wander during important conversations.

Additionally, adults with ADHD are often hyper-sensitive to negative comments and have difficulty self-regulating their emotions which results in relationship conflicts.

Are you in Illinois and looking for Imago Therapy Near Me?

You don’t have to deal with relationship challenges alone. We are here to help.

If you’re in Illinois and looking to explore imago relationship therapy, we have over 30 therapists in Champaign, IL, and Urbana, Mattoon, and we offer Teletherapy in Illinois.

In learning the process and seeing results, there has been great success with doing approximately 12 sessions of Imago Relationship Therapy.

It is important to say that Imago Therapy will not be effective if you are in a relationship where domestic violence, substance abuse, or addiction are present. However, we have therapists skilled in those areas that will be happy to help work through those issues.

“We are born in relationships, we are wounded in relationships, and we can be healed in relationships.” Dr. Hendrix

Contact us to set up your appointment.

Источник: https://elliottcounselinggroup.com/imago-relationship-therapy/

Imago Relationship Therapy (IRT)

What Is Imago Therapy?

Imago relationship therapy (IRT) aims to equip couples with the tools necessary to relate to each other in healthier ways, and reveal the emotional pathway formed in childhood that led them to their current situation.

This form of therapy combines spiritual and behavioral techniques with Western psychological methodologies in order to assist couples in unveiling their unconscious components. Imago relationship therapy involves viewing a conflict between couples as merely the outcome of specific circumstances—not the cause of disharmony.

By examining the conflict itself, a couple can arrive at a satisfying solution, heal, and then grow together.

What Is the Imago?

Imago is the Latin word for «image.» In Imago Relationship Therapy, imago refers specifically to an unconscious, idealized concept of familiar love that an individual develops during childhood, and which remains unchanged in adulthood.

The development of the imago is based primarily on early interactions with one's parents or other significant adults in early life.

Due to a child's individualized construct of what love is, he or she will develop specific behaviors or «survival patterns» (either by expressing or inhibiting personality traits) in order to obtain love and stay safe.

However, even the best parents fail to meet a child's every need and expectation.

As such, an individual's imago will incorporate both the positive and negative behaviors that he or she associates with his or her ideal loved one.

As we consciously seek love in adulthood, we unconsciously seek out people who are similar to our imago and who will allow us to develop the qualities we either inhibited or were not allowed to express in childhood.

History of Imago Therapy

In the late 1970s Harville Hendrix, PhD, and Helen LaKelly Hunt, MA,—who had each been through divorces with their previous spouses—had a common interest in understanding their failed marriages.

A lack of literature relevant to their previous marital experiences prompted them to use their own relationship, before and after their marriage in 1984, to examine the dynamics of intimate relationships.

In 1977, they theorized that the emotional and psychological wounds experienced during childhood via interactions with one's parents could only be adequately addressed within a context which reactivated those wounds.

They believed that only another committed relationship, such as marriage, could provide the variables necessary to facilitate healing and growth. Hendrix taught strategies such as «mirroring» and «containment» to couples in his practice, and the couples reported significant improvements in their relationships.

Hendrix and Hunt concluded that a marital relationship, mutual healing, is the most effective form of therapy.

Despite success in his own practice, it was not until the release of Hendrix's groundbreaking book, Getting the Love You Want, in 1988, that Imago Relationship Therapy drew the attention of the wider public. IRT evolved over the following years as Hendrix and Hunt modified and expanded the therapy's core procedures. Today, there are more than 2000 trained imago therapists worldwide.

5 Basic Tenets of Imago Therapy

Imago relationship therapy consists of 5 core principles. These are:

  1. Re-imagining your mate as a wounded child.
  2. Re-romanticizing your relationship via pleasurable surprises, gift-giving, and displays of appreciation.
  3. Restructuring your disappointments and frustrations by changing complaints into requests.
  4. Resolving feelings of extreme anger.
  5. Re-visioning the relationship as a source of happiness, satisfaction, and safety.

Conflict and Communication Problems

Conflict often arises as a result of an underlying emotional discontent felt within the context of the relationship. Outwardly it is expressed through criticism, anger, and dissatisfaction.

Imago relationship therapy helps a couple explore the root of the emotional hurt or need and determines what elements causes those issues to manifest as strenuous and negative comments, feelings, and behaviors.

The Intentional Dialogue Process: Mirroring, Validation, and Empathy

The intentional dialogue process is the most important aspect of Imago Relationship Therapy. This structured dialogue incorporates speaking and listening techniques that facilitate contingent communication. Contingent communication occurs when expressions of vulnerability by one partner is met with validation and expressed empathy from the other partner.

  • The first step of intentional dialogue is called mirroring, and it involves repeating your partner's (the Sender's) words until both parties hear and completely understand the Sender's expressions.
  • During the validation phase, the partner who is listening (the Receiver) summarizes and expresses understanding of the points the Sender raised. Crucially, the Receiver must also express why the Sender's experience makes sense, even if the Receiver does not agree with it.
  • Showing empathy is the final step of the dialogue process, and it encourages each person to try to appreciate the experience in question, from his or her partner's point of view.

Find a Therapist

While lowering one's emotional defenses can result in repeated suffering in other contexts, it can also lead to the development of deeply intimate connections in a therapeutic setting. The Imago dialogue encourages this type of deep communication and teaches couples how to do it until the process becomes habitual and feels natural.

Limitations of Imago Relationship Therapy

As Imago Therapy focuses on re-establishing loving relationships and deepening intimate connections, it may not be suitable for couples experiencing domestic violence, gambling issues, substance dependence, or similar health and relationship concerns. IRT may only be effective after such immediate threats to the relationship are suitably resolved. Therapists will take into account the specific factors, including any mental health diagnoses, when developing a treatment plan.


  1. Burger, R. & Hannah, M. T. (1999). Preventive approaches in couples therapy (pp. 169-194). USA: Routledge.
  2. Dallos, R. & Draper, R. (2010). An introduction to family therapy: Systemic theory and practice, 3rd ed. (pp. 205-206). New York City: McGraw-Hill International.
  3. Harville, H. (n.d.). The evolution of imago relationship therapy: A personal and professional journey. Retrieved from http://pro.imagorelationships.org/Portals/0/Docs/Imago%20Studies/The_Evolution_of_Imago_Relationship_Therapy-published_version.pdf
  4. Lipthrott, D. J. (n.d.). Imago dialogue – intentional dialogue. Retrieved from http://www.relationshipjourney.com/dialoguetipsdawn.html
  5. Lipthrott, D. J. (n.d.). What is imago relationship therapy, anyway? Retrieved from http://www.relationshipjourney.com/imagotherapy.html
  6. Willat, N. (2007). Prioritising and promoting connection. Therapy Today, 18(6), 15-17.
  7. Williams, A. (n.d.). What is imago? Retrieved from http://www.imago.com.au/

Last Update:03-08-2018

Источник: https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/imago

Imago Therapy: Is This Couples Therapy Right for You?

What Is Imago Therapy?

When you are searching for a couples therapist, it can be challenging to know if a therapist is good and what modality of couples therapy would be a good fit for you. To find a skilled therapist, I recommend seeing someone who has advanced training in a specific couples therapy method Imago Therapy, PACT, The Gottman Method, or EFT. 

Many therapists say they offer couples therapy or marriage counseling but if they don’t specialize in it, the odds of them being really good are not great. Couples therapy is much more complicated than individual therapy with a lot of moving parts to consider so it truly does take a higher level of training to do it well. 

My (Dr. Sarah Schewitz) preferred modality is Imago Couples Therapy and I am a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist. That means I went through extensive training and supervision to learn everything there is to know about using Imago Therapy.

The whole process takes about a year and a half (this is in addition to the 7 years spent getting my doctorate in psychology) and is a major investment in time and money.

The certification process is no joke but neither are the results this method of couples therapy produces.

Many couples who have participated in Imago Therapy swear by it, Oprah Winfrey being one of them. She credits Imago Therapy for the long-term success of her relationship with Stedman.

She has done over 17 shows promoting the modality because she feels so passionate about it.

In fact, the first Emmy she ever won for her talk show was for the episode where she interviewed Harville Hendrix, the founder of Imago Therapy.

Ok so, if you have never heard of this type of therapy before you are probably wondering what the heck is it?!

What is Imago Therapy?

Imago Relationship Therapy is a modality designed to help couples go from having an unconscious to a conscious relationship. Created by Harville Hendrix and his wife, Helen LaKelly Hunt in 1980, it’s the premise that our unconscious mind is driven to heal childhood wounding and trauma through our romantic relationships.

We all have an “Imago” (meaning “image” in Latin) which is imprinted in our unconscious mind as a conglomeration of the positive and negative traits of our caretakers from childhood. Each one of us is unconsciously searching for a partner with this very particular set of positive and negative personality traits in order to heal the wounding inflicted on us in childhood.

Our unconscious drive is to get our partner, who is similar to our parents, to change and give us love in ways that our parents never did. Most of this occurs behind the scenes in your unconscious mind so it’s not something you are actively aware of unless you’ve been taught to look for the patterns.

Your Imago Match

Consciously, you will probably be aware of and attracted to the positive similarities your partner has with your family of origin when you first fall in love.

You might think, “(s)he’s a great provider and hard worker my dad” or “(s)he is kind and nurturing my mom.” You know you’ve met your Imago match when you get that feeling you’ve known someone forever when you hardly know each other at all.

The comfort can be immediate and the attraction intense. They kind of just feel home.

What you won’t see in your Imago match (until you’ve gotten past the romantic love stage) are the negative qualities that are also just your family of origin.

Sometimes these even turn out to be the same qualities you loved in the beginning.

For example, you might have loved that your partner was outgoing, talkative and confident in the beginning but now you view him/her as an attention hog who never lets anyone else get a word in edgewise (much your older sibling).

Or, perhaps you were focused on your partner being a hard worker and good provider in the beginning but you missed the fact that (s)he has the ability to be unreasonably irritable just your father was with you when stressed with work. Or perhaps now you resent the fact that (s)he is never home and you don’t feel a priority, much you felt as a child when your dad didn’t come home for dinner.

Note that the childhood “wounding” I mentioned above doesn’t seem anything major. You don’t have to have had major trauma abuse or abandonment by a parent to have childhood wounds. We all have them, no matter how great our childhood was. What your adult mind can rationalize away as “no big deal” might have felt a very big deal to your 4-year-old self.

Part of the process of Imago Relationship Therapy is helping you become aware of these wounds from the past and their impact on your child self so you can understand why you feel triggered with your partner when they do certain things. Your childhood wounds are usually the key to understanding and diffusing your recurring fights with your partner.

Who Does Imago Therapy Work For?

Imago Therapy is great for couples and individuals seeking to have more connected, conscious relationships with a high level of healthy communication.

Imago Relationship Therapy helps you gain a deeper understanding of the childhood wounding stored in your unconscious that is often the source of hurt in your romantic relationships.

Thus, it is helpful for couples or individuals that keep having the same fights and patterns show up in their relationships over and over again.

Imago counseling is also very helpful for couples who have trouble communicating calmly and kindly when in conflict because it gives you tangible tools for how to communicate respectfully to resolve conflict. It’s excellent for couples who want actual tools and exercises they can use at home to improve their relationship as well as those who want to use therapy to process and create a deeper connection.

Imago Therapy is recommended for couples at any stage in the relationship – from those that have been dating a few months to married for decades.

You don’t have to be having huge problems in your relationship to see an Imago Therapist (though you can be) because it can also be used to improve romance, connection, and knowledge/understanding of each other’s world.

A key component of Imago Relationship Therapy is developing empathy so it’s very helpful for couples that have a hard time seeing each other’s perspectives.

Imago Therapy for Individuals

Though it was developed as a couples therapy modality, Imago Therapy can also be adapted for individuals.

In fact, there is a book called “Keeping The Love You Find” by Harville and Helen that is written for singles interested in using Imago Theory to improve their love lives.

Imago Therapy for individuals can help you recognize the source of unhealthy relationship patterns such as dating unavailable or abusive partners and change your love template to start choosing healthier partners. 

Imago Theory is several different psychological theories, one of which is attachment theory. Understanding your attachment style can be very helpful and enlightening as an individual looking for love and Imago helps you do that and more.

Imago Therapy for individuals can also help you understand and become conscious about parts of yourself you may have repressed in childhood due to the way you were socialized by your family and society.

This is important because we tend to be attracted to partners that bring out our repressed or lost self but this later triggers us as the relationship progresses.

Uncovering and loving those parts of yourself will allow you to attract a partner from a more whole and conscious place.

What to Expect in an Imago Therapy Session

Every Imago Therapy session will follow the same structure but have different content. For starters, you will be placed in chairs facing each other, not the therapist. In Imago Relationship Therapy, the goal is to foster communication and connection between the two of you not between you and the therapist. 

An Imago Therapist acts as more of a guide to facilitate communication rather than someone you communicate with directly. An Imago relationship therapist will be present as a coach and guide but will not actually be part of the conversation between you two.

Each Imago session will open with both partners sharing something they love and appreciate about their partner. Next, you will have an Imago Dialogue. The dialogue is the only way couples will communicate in a session and it is honestly pure magic.

Imago Dialogue: How it Works

The dialogue is a very structured way your Imago Therapist will teach you to communicate that allows you to get to the deeper layers of what is underneath the conflict you are processing. It requires that one of you be the sender and the other the receiver. Then you’ll switch once you’ve completed all the steps. 

The Imago Dialogue consists of 3 steps:

  1. Mirroring. Mirroring involves repeating back what you heard your partner say. 
  2. Validating. Validation requires putting yourself in your partner’s shoes and explaining why their point of view makes sense. You don’t have to agree with it but you do have to stretch to understand why it makes sense to them.
  3. Empathy. Empathy in the dialogue means guessing what your partner might be feeling what they just shared with you.

Click here to see a video of a couple using the Imago Dialogue.

Most Imago sessions are 80-90 minutes long and will allow you enough time to communicate about one topic or conflict in-depth using the Imago Dialogue. You will begin with appreciations and end with appreciations and/or a hug.

There are many components that an Imago Relationship Therapist will help you work on in your relationship using the dialogue as well as homework assignments for you to work on together and independently.

The 5 Processes of Imago Therapy are:

  1. Re-Imaging: Starting to see your partner in a positive light again.
  2. Re-committing: Many Imago Therapists will request that you commit to 12 weeks without any threat of breakup or divorce because it is so de-stabilizing to the safety of a relationship to threaten to leave. It’s hard to truly connect without safety and commitment.
  3. Re-visioning: You’ll create a shared vision of your ideal relationship so you know what you are working towards.
  4. Restructuring Frustrations: In order to have healthy love, you have to heal the wounds from your past. You’ll use the dialogue to reprocess some of the major wounds inflicted by your partner as needed. You’ll also use it to process current conflicts as they arise.
  5. Re-romanticizing: You’ll discover what makes each other feel loved and cared about and start focusing on more fun and romance in your relationship.

Finding an Imago Therapist

If this all resonates with you so far, you’re probably wondering how to find an Imago Therapist to work with. As I mentioned earlier, I am a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist.

As an online couples therapist, I provide online couples therapy for couples all over the world using Imago Relationship Therapy.

I’ve found that Imago Therapy translates really well in the online format and my clients love being able to meet with me from the comfort of their own homes.

Unfortunately, I’m not always accepting new clients so you’ll need to check our scheduling page to see if I have any available consultation times. All new clients are required to book a free 30-minute consultation before booking a full session just to make sure working together is a good fit. If you don’t see any available consultation times with me on the schedule, it means I’m full.

If my schedule is full or if you’d prefer in-person sessions, you can find an Imago Therapist or workshop almost anywhere in North America and in many other parts of the world as well.

There are also Imago Therapy weekend workshops for couples called “Getting The Love You Want” and Imago workshops for individuals called “Keeping the Love You Find.” Both are excellent ways to get introduced to Imago Therapy and to deepen your understanding of yourself and your partner. 

Lastly, reading Harville and Helen’s book Getting The Love You Want and working through the exercises in the accompanying workbook is a great way to learn more about Imago Therapy and work on your relationship without the help of a therapist or workshop.

Источник: https://coupleslearn.com/imago-therapy/

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