What is Imago Relationship Therapy?
(or View in PDF format)
Imago Relationship Therapy (IRT) is a form of
relationship therapy innovated by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. Dr. Hendrix was author of the
two Best Sellers "Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples," and "Keeping the Love
You Find: A Guide for Singles." It integrates and extends the insights of the major western
psychological systems, behavioral science and spiritual disciplines into a uniquely
comprehensive and systemic theory of primary love relationships.
Its basic premises are as follows:
- We were born whole and complete.
- We became wounded during the early
nurturing and socializing stages of development by our primary caretakers
- We have a composite image of all the
positive and negative traits of our primary care takers deep in our unconscious mind.
This is called the IMAGO. It is like a blue print of the one we need to be our partner
in a committed intimate relationship.<
- We look for someone who is an IMAGO
Match, that is, someone who matches up with the composite image of our primary
caretakers. This is important because we marry or commit for the purpose of healing
and finishing the unfinished business of childhood. Our parents are the ones who
wounded us and it is they who could help us heal. A primary love partner who matches
their traits is their stand-in.
- Romantic Love is the door to committed
relationship and/or marriage and is nature’s way of connecting us with the
perfect partner for our eventual healing.
- We move into a power struggle as soon as
we make a commitment to this person. The power struggle is necessary, for imbedded
in a couple’s frustrations lie the information for healing and growth.
- The first two stages of marriage,
"romantic love" and the "power struggle," are engaged in at an unconscious level.
Our unconscious mind chose our partner for the purpose of healing childhood
- Inevitably our love partner is incompatible
with us and least able to meet our needs and most able to wound us all over again.
- The goal of Imago Relationship Therapy is
to align our conscious mind (which wants happiness and good feelings) with the
agenda of the unconscious mind (which wants healing and growth). Thus, the goal
of therapy is to assist clients in developing conscious, intimate, committed
- This transition cannot take place through
insight alone. Specific skills and processes are necessary that need to be practiced
daily to shift us from having an unconscious marriage or relationship to a
conscious marriage or relationship.
- It takes two to five years of regular work
although not necessarily therapy, to develop a conscious marriage, which will
bring you the relationship you deserve, that is, one with safety and passion.
Source: The Imago Match, A
Newsletter, published by Francine Beauvoir, Ph. D. and Bruce Crapuchettes, Ph. D;
Pasadena Institute for Relationships; Altadena, CA.
Choosing to Work with an
Imago Relationship Therapist
in PDF format
How does Imago Relationship Therapy differ
from other types of marital therapy? There are many forms of marital therapy available
that rely on teaching new skills alone in an attempt to help couples change, perhaps by
helping them negotiate their conflicts better or setting up weekly contracts for new behaviors. The skills Imago Relationship Therapists teach
are part of a larger step-by-step process with the goal of individual healing through the
transformation of committed partnerships.
Founded by Harville Hendrix, Ph. D., Imago
theory subscribes to the belief that, in Western cultures, we unconsciously bring out unfinished
business from childhood needs on our partners; and because both partners have the same
agenda, relationship conflicts generally result. Because our wounding occurred in our early
relationships with the people who raised us, our healing must also occur in the context of a
Imago Relationship Therapists are trained to
assist couples in gaining access to the central unconscious motivations they bring to their
relationships for resolution. When these hidden hopes, fears and longings are no longer hidden
and can be communicated in the structured atmosphere of safety provided by the
therapists, partners begin to see one another differently, experience greater empathy
towards one another and actively take steps to create a new experience of relationship. Imago
Relationship Therapists help couple delve into the core problem or issue in the relationship -
the relationship impasse. It is usually this impasse - that seemingly "unmovable object" -
that brings troubled couples into therapy in the first place. In the course of therapy, just by
working the process, impasses dissolve. It is in this process, too, that couples agree to take on
a new purpose for being together - a mutual attempt to complete childhood and commit to
becoming one another's healer in the context of a conscious relationship. In most troubled
relationships, problems continue to escalate because one or both partners have exhausted
their resources and have literally run out of skills.
Therapy with a Certified Imago Relationship
Therapist provides a safe container for change to occur and replaces the couple's old,
unworkable problem-solving behaviors with new relationship skills that have been proven to
help partners transform even the most
seemingly "hopeless" situations. For example, the attempt to get one's needs met through
criticism of one's partner (which experience shows, has the opposite result) is replaces with
a skill called the Behavior Change Request process in which partners learn to translate
their relationship frustrations into clear, direct requests for tangible desired behaviors that will
meet the need.
Imago Relationship Therapy is a practical and
cost-effective approach as well. The job of an Imago Relationship Therapist is to make
himself or herself obsolete. Because partners are taught to become therapeutic with one
another, they will have less and less need for the therapist over time.
Source: Imago Relationship Therapy Resources
Catalogue, 1995-96, written by Lisa Kelvin Tuttle
Gay and Lesbian Workshop