Imago relationship therapy: what it is and how it helps couples

Fighting or arguing with your partner is completely normal, as long as it’s not an everyday affair. When you are going through a difficult time, you can think of relationship advice. Couples therapy can help improve your bond with your partner. Imago relationship therapy, developed by Dr. Harville Hendrix and Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt in 1980, is one option. Read on to find out what Imago relationship therapy is and how it can help couples.

Health Shots contacted Dr. Rahul Chandhok, Senior Consultant – Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, Artemis Lite, New Friends Colony, New Delhi, and Gurugram-based psychiatrist, Dr. Ashish Mittal, to learn more about relationship therapy Imago.

Imago relationship therapy is a form of couples therapy. Image provided by: Shutterstock

What is Imago relationship therapy?

It is a form of couples therapy based on the concept that individuals are subconsciously attracted to their partners who reflect the positive and negative traits of their primary caregivers, Dr. Chandhok explains. Imago refers to the unconscious image of familiar love imprinted in childhood. The therapy aims to help couples understand each other and heal childhood wounds that may be influencing current relationship dynamics. Dr. Mittal says the central idea behind this therapy is that conflict in current relationships often stems from unresolved issues and unmet needs from our past.

Key Principles of Imago Relationship Therapy

The therapy focuses on the following key principles:

1. Imago Dialogs

Couples learn a structured communication technique called Imago Dialogue to express their feelings, needs and frustrations in a safe and non-confrontational way.
way, says Dr. Chandhok.

2. Unconscious patterns

Partners gain insight into their unconscious patterns and triggers, which may be rooted in past experiences, and how these patterns affect their current interactions.

3. Empathy and understanding

Therapy emphasizes empathy and understanding between partners to form a deeper emotional bond.

4. Heal childhood wounds

Couples explore the impact of their childhood experiences and family dynamics on their adult relationships and work to heal the wounds of the past.

How does Imago relationship therapy help couples?

Imago relationship therapy can help couples on their journey to a healthier and more fulfilling relationship. Here are some ways this therapy can benefit couples:

1. Improved communication

Imago therapy focuses on teaching couples effective communication skills, says Dr. Mittal. Partners learn to listen actively and to speak with honesty and empathy. Through structured dialogues, they can share their feelings, needs and concerns in a safe and respectful environment. This leads to a deeper understanding of each other’s points of view and promotes healthier patterns of communication.

unhappy couple
Imago relationship therapy can help you communicate better with your partner. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

2. Understand unconscious patterns

Imago therapy recognizes that people often unconsciously choose partners who reflect unresolved issues from their past, especially those of their first caregivers. These unresolved issues can influence their relationship with their current partner. The therapist helps couples identify these patterns and understand how their past experiences might impact current relationship dynamics. By raising awareness of these patterns, couples can work to break negative cycles and create healthier interactions.

3. Conflict Resolution

This therapy helps couples identify the root causes of conflict and
address the underlying issues in a constructive way, says Dr. Chandhok.

4. Empathy and Validation

Partners learn to validate each other’s emotions and experiences, even if they don’t fully understand them. This creates a sense of security and emotional support, allowing both partners to feel heard and valued within the relationship.

5. Rekindle intimacy and connection

By exploring each other’s needs and wants, they can make a deeper emotional connection and rekindle passion that may have diminished over time. This process helps partners become more attuned to each other’s emotional world and fosters a sense of closeness.

Is Imago relationship therapy suitable for all couples?

Imago relationship therapy may not be suitable for all couples or situations. The success of therapy depends on the willingness of both partners to engage in the process and their commitment to personal growth and relationship improvement. If a couple is dealing with serious issues such as abuse or addiction, they may need additional specialist support before committing to couples therapy, Dr. Mittal says.

Ultimately, the decision to undergo Imago relationship therapy or any other form of couples therapy should be made by you and your partner.

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