Imago Relationship Therapy was first developed by Harville Hendrix, PhD, and Helen LaKelly Hunt, PhD. In developing this specific method of relationship therapy, they drew from numerous, broad range psychological ideas and a wide variety of existing therapeutic practices. They combined these ideas and methodologies in a way that uniquely emphasizes the mutuality of romantic partnerships. In so many words, Imago teaches a deeper method of communication within partnerships – one that focuses on the deepest intimate needs. These needs include the need to feel loved, the need to feel cared for, the need to feel intimately connected, and the need to feel safe. Imago Relationship Therapy helps partners ask one another for what it is they truly need, bringing about a more empathetic and compassionate connection.
IRT and Communication
The fundamental technique of Imago Relationship Therapy is structured dialogue – the entire methodology revolves around an improvement in healthy and meaningful communication. A licensed Imago therapist will be present to mediate and guide all sessions, taking both partners through a specific process of speaking and listening that creates (what psychologists call) contingent communication. Contingent communication successfully occurs when a disclosure of sincere vulnerability is met with expressed empathy. For example, if I tell my partner that I feel isolated and abandoned when she works overnight shifts, I am being open and honest about my vulnerabilities. If she then expresses that she understands what I have expressed and recognizes how the circumstances emotionally affect me, we have been communicating contingently. While sessions are mediated at first, the goal is to make this form of communication habitual –so that long-term, evocative intimacy is possible.
It’s All About Vulnerability
Being vulnerable is often quite terrifying; especially for those who have learned, from an early age, to deny or ignore their emotions. However, the more vulnerable an individual can be with his or her partner, the safer the relationship will be for both parties. It is natural to assume that safety comes before vulnerability – the safer we feel, the more likely we will be to open up emotionally. The truth is, however, that the opposite is true – the more we practice vulnerability, the safer we begin to feel. Lowering our defenses often takes time and practice. Many individuals who struggle with an ability to effectively express themselves learned dysfunctional patterns of communication early on in childhood, from their primary caregivers. Unlearning and reestablishing healthy patterns of communication can be difficult, but doing so will pave the way for a whole new level of romantic intimacy. When partners learn to communicate with vulnerability and empathy, they truly become able to heal and grow alongside one another.
What Should I Expect?
Unlike traditional talk therapy, Imago therapists tend to act more like coaches, instructing their patients in specific techniques while working to facilitate a deeper, more intimate connection. Like a coach, the Imago therapist will help you to develop a certain set of skills, and a deeper understanding of what it means to love and be loved. Most people fall in love with their partners because they each experienced a very similar wound in early childhood. While the wound is the same, the methods of adaption tend to differ significantly – and this is where conflict comes into play. The Imago therapist will work to uncover these core wounds, helping the partners move towards mutual healing.
Imago Relationship Therapy is offered to any of our patients who we believe would benefit from an improved line of communication; specifically between them and their partners. As part of our Family Program, we welcome the significant others of our patients to join us for regular therapeutic counseling. Like the rest of our clinical program, family involvement is comprehensive and intensive. We truly believe that in order for an individual to complete the process of healing and maintain fulfilled, long-term recovery, the family dynamic – as a whole – must shift.
For more information, please contact us today!