Imago Relationship Therapy

What Is Imago Relationship Therapy?

Imago relationship therapy is a form of couples counseling and coaching that helps those in committed relationships work out their misunderstandings, reduce conflict, and rediscover ways to bond, communicate, and find common ground. Much of the work in Imago workshops and private therapy involves learning to recognize how early childhood relationship experiences affect how we communicate, behave, and respond to others in adult relationships.

When It's Used

Imago relationship therapy can benefit couples who are trying to improve their relationships and become closer to their partners, and individuals in need of communication skills to better their relationships in general. Coaching is facilitated through group workshops and private counseling, depending on the needs and preferences of the couple involved. Some research suggests that individuals with ADHD can also benefit from the development of communication, self-control, and listening skills that form the basis of Imago relationship therapy.

What to Expect

Imago workshops often take the form of weekends away from home, where couples learn exercises and dialogues specifically designed to facilitate and improve meaningful conversation, explore emotions, encourage reconnection on a deeper level and ultimately help them feel more positive about their relationship. After, or in lieu of, attending group workshops, couples may seek individual counseling with an Imago therapist. In Imago workshops and therapy, couples usually sit facing each other and participate in exercises and conversation guided by a trained Imago therapist.

How It Works

Imago therapy is based on the relationship work of psychotherapist Harville Hendrix and his partner Helen LaKelly, developed in the 1980s and based on the theory that feelings you experienced in your childhood relationships are bound to come up in your adult relationships. By understanding how negative experiences and feelings from childhood carry over into adult relationships, you can better understand your reactions to your partner, and vice versa, and develop the skills and empathy necessary to transform your individual self and your relationship. The goal of Imago Therapy is to help couples stop blaming, criticizing, and negatively reacting to their partners and, instead, become more understanding and empathetic. Little scientific research has been done to measure the long-term success of Imago therapy. One study, however, published in the January 2017 issue of Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy, found that marital satisfaction increased significantly for couples who completed 12 sessions of Imago relationship therapy, and remained higher for some time, but did not always result in what researchers determined to be “complete recovery.”

What to Look for in an Imago Relationship Therapist

Look for a licensed and experienced psychotherapist with specialized training in couples counseling and Imago Relationship Therapy. Imago Relationships International certifies Imago therapists and can provide referrals to member workshops and individual counselors.

Sources

Robbins CA. ADHD couple and family relationships: Enhancing communication and understanding through Imago Relationship Therapy. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 18 Feb 2005;61(5):565-577.[Abstract]

Hendrix H, LaKelly HH Luquet W and Carlson J. Using the Imago Dialogue to Deepen Couples Therapy. Journal of Individual Psychology. Fall 2015;71(3):253-272. [Abstract]