Feature by Nikita Fernandes
Imago Relationship Therapy is a type of relationship and couples therapy that focuses on relational counseling to turn any conflicts between couples into chances for healing and progress. It was created by Drs. Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt in 1980. The word 'imago' means image in Latin. The idea behind the therapy is to help couples understand what their partner is saying and how their partner might be feeling. Using imago therapy with couples has been beneficial in helping clarify misconceptions, reduce conflict, and rediscover ways to connect with and communicate effectively with one another.
Imago therapy really teaches us to use our active listening skills. More than half the time, we listen to respond rather than listen to understand. For example, if your partner says something that triggers frustration in you, your first instinct is to respond with how you're feeling rather than pausing to understand what your partner just shared. As human beings, we have become reactive to the world around us rather than pausing to process information before reacting. The goal of imago therapy is to help couples to pause and understand the information before reacting to it. It aims to assist couples in transforming their blame and criticism responses into more empathetic responses.
When I work with couples, I notice that miscommunication and misunderstanding are at the crux of disagreements. Often, all partners within the relationship have good intentions but might end up offending their partner (s) in the way they communicate. As a couples therapist, I ask each partner what feelings they hoped to convey in their message. Uncovering the motivation behind certain actions can help build a road to more effective communication. Imago therapy enables couples to really listen to their partners feelings before responding in the heat of the moment.
A great resource for learning more about imago therapy is Dr. Hendrix’s New York Times bestselling book, "Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples." In order to help couples develop a more meaningful and loving connection with one another, the book teaches "Imago Dialogue," which enables them to switch from resentment and reactivity to understanding and empathy.