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Imago Relationship Therapy: What is it and How it Helps Couples

Imago Relationship Therapy: What is it and How it Helps Couples

Having fights or arguments with your partner is quite normal, as long as it is not an everyday affair. When you hit a rough patch, you may think of relationship counselling. Couples therapy might help to improve your bond with your partner.  Imago Relationship Therapy, which was developed by Dr Harville Hendrix and Dr Helen LaKelly Hunt in 1980, is one option. Read on to find out what is Imago Relationship Therapy and how it can help couples.

Health Shots reached out to Dr Rahul Chandhok, Head Consultant – Mental Health and Behavioural Science, Artemis Lite, New Friends Colony, New Delhi, and Gurugram-based psychiatrist Dr Ashish Mittal to know about Imago Relationship Therapy.

upset couple
Imago Relationship Therapy is a form of couples therapy. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What is Imago Relationship Therapy?

It is a form of couples therapy that is based on the concept that individuals are unconsciously drawn to their partners who mirror the positive and negative traits of their early caregivers, explains Dr Chandhok. 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 might be influencing their current relationship dynamics. Dr Mittal says the central idea behind this therapy is that conflicts in current relationships often stem 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 dialogue

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

2. Unconscious patterns

Partners gain insights into their unconscious patterns and triggers, which might be rooted in past experiences, and how these patterns affect their present interactions.

3. Empathy and understanding

The therapy stresses on empathy and understanding between partners to form a deeper emotional connection.

4. Healing childhood wounds

Couples explore how their childhood experiences and family dynamics impact their adult relationships and work towards healing past wounds.

How does Imago Relationship Therapy help couples?

Imago Relationship Therapy can help couples in their journey towards a healthier and more fulfilling relationship. Here are some ways this therapy can benefit couples:

1. Communication improvement

Imago therapy focuses on teaching couples effective communication skills, says Dr Mittal. Partners learn to listen actively and express themselves honestly and empathically. 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 perspectives and promotes healthier communication patterns.

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

2. Understanding unconscious patterns

Imago therapy recognises that people often unconsciously choose partners who reflect unresolved issues from their past, particularly those from their early caregivers. These unresolved issues can influence how they relate to their current partner. The therapist helps couples identify these patterns and understand how their past experiences might be impacting their present relationship dynamics. By bringing these patterns into awareness, couples can work towards breaking negative cycles and creating healthier interactions.

3. Resolution of conflicts

This therapy helps couples to identify the root causes of conflicts and
address underlying issues constructively, says Dr Chandhok.

4. Empathy and validation

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

5. Rekindling intimacy and connection

By exploring each other’s needs and desires, they can build a deeper emotional connection and reignite the passion that might have dwindled 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 might not be suitable for all couples or situations. The success of the therapy depends on both partners’ willingness to engage in the process and their commitment to personal growth and relationship improvement. If a couple is facing severe issues such as abuse or addiction, they might need additional specialised support before engaging in couple’s therapy, says Dr Mittal.

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

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