Imago Relationship Therapy: Unraveling Relationship Dynamics

Updated on September 11, 2023

Have you ever heard of Imago Relationship Therapy (IRT)? It’s a form of couples therapy commonly used in committed relationships that focuses on helping partners understand and improve their relationships.

Imago Therapy was developed by Dr. Harville Hendrix and Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt in the 1980s. The term “imago” is derived from the Latin word for “image” and reflects that individuals have an unconscious image of their ideal partner, often shaped by their early childhood experiences and relationships with caregivers.

The central premise of IRT is that people are drawn toward partners who unconsciously resemble their caregivers’ positive and negative qualities from early childhood. These qualities can trigger positive and negative emotional reactions in adult relationships.

The therapy aims to help couples in committed relationships recognize these patterns, understand their origins in childhood experiences, and learn healthier ways to communicate and relate to each other.

Key Concepts of Imago Therapy include:

  • Conscious Relationships: The therapy emphasizes the importance of conscious, intentional relationship efforts. Couples are encouraged to become aware of their patterns and reactions to make more deliberate choices in their interactions.
  • Mirroring, Validation, and Empathy: Partners are taught to actively listen, reflect, and validate what they hear from each other (mirroring) in therapy sessions. This practice helps each person feel understood and validated. Developing empathy is also crucial in understanding each other’s feelings and experiences.
  • Imago Dialogue: This structured communication technique encourages couples to express their feelings, thoughts, and needs non-confrontationally during in-person sessions. It helps create a safe space for open and honest conversation.
  • Reparenting: IRT suggests that individuals can heal unresolved childhood wounds by offering each other the emotional support and understanding they may not have received during their upbringing.
  • Behavioral Change: The therapy teaches couples practical tools and techniques from Hendrix’s book “Getting the Love You Want” to improve their communication, problem-solving, and conflict-resolution skills.
  • Relationship Vision: Couples are encouraged to create a shared vision for their relationship based on their values, desires, and aspirations.

Research shows IRT can improve relationship satisfaction compared to no therapy in randomized control trials. It’s important to note that while Imago Therapy has been beneficial for many couples, like any therapeutic approach, its effectiveness can vary depending on the individuals involved and the specific dynamics of their relationship. 

If you’re interested in pursuing Imago Therapy or any other form of relationship therapy, reach out to our team of therapists who can help you understand your partner better, and vice versa!