Imago Therapy: how it can help couples resolve conflicts and improve their relationship

The article below is a version of the video interview I gave above.


I’m Alison, a trained psychotherapist. I run Formby Counselling near Liverpool in the UK. I have my therapy rooms there which are also available to rent by other counsellors. I also cover Southport, Ormskirk, Skelmersdale, Wigan, Warrington, St Helens, Prescot.

Being close to the beach and a beautiful nature reserve I also offer “walk and talk” eco-therapy.

What’s Imago therapy?

Imago therapy is a type of couples therapy that focuses on helping couples resolve conflicts and improve their relationship by understanding each other’s needs and communicating effectively.

It is based on the idea that we all have an unconscious image of our ideal partner, and that this image influences our behaviour and communication in our relationships.

How did Imago therapy come about?

Imago therapy was developed by Harville Hendrix, a therapist and author, in the 1980s. He was inspired by his own struggles in his relationship, and he found that traditional therapy was not helping him and his wife communicate effectively.

He began to explore different approaches to therapy, and eventually developed the Imago therapy model.

How is it different from other couples therapy?

Unlike traditional couples therapy that often focuses on problem-solving and compromise, Imago therapy emphasises deeper emotional connection between partners.

It helps couples to really listen to each other, understand and validate each other’s feelings using the ‘Imago Dialogue’ technique and to learn how to communicate in a more positive and productive way using 18 different psychological exercises.

Imago therapy also focuses on the realisation that adult romantic relationships have a hidden purpose which is the healing of childhood wounds in each partner.

Hendrix’s theory behind Imago therapy is that many people enter into what he calls “The Unconscious Marriage – a marriage that includes all of the hidden desires and automatic behaviours that are left over from childhood and that inexorably lead couples into conflict.”

Walk us through a typical Imago therapy session?

In an Imago therapy session, the therapist first helps the couple identify the underlying emotions and needs that drive their behaviour. This often involves exploring childhood experiences and patterns that may be influencing the relationship.

Then, the couple takes turns listening to each other without interruption, criticism, or judgement, and then each partner reflecting back, word for word, to each other what they have heard each other say.

This helps each partner feel heard and understood, which can lead to a deeper emotional connection. The Imago therapist teaches the couple how to use the ‘Imago Dialogue’ technique to use outside of therapy sessions to encourage clearer communication skills between each other.

How long does Imago therapy usually take?

The length of therapy varies depending on the couple’s specific needs and goals. Some couples may only need a few sessions to work through specific issues, while others may benefit from more long-term therapy to address deeper, long-standing communication issues in their relationship.

It’s important to note that Imago therapy is not a quick fix, but rather a process of ongoing growth and development.

What issues can Imago therapy help couples with?

Imago therapy can help couples with a wide range of issues, including communication problems, conflicts around parenting, sexual issues, infidelity, and many others. It can also help couples who are struggling to reconnect after a traumatic event or a period of distance.

Imago therapy is particularly effective in addressing patterns of behaviour that are causing conflict and disconnection in the relationship.

How effective is Imago therapy?

Imago therapy has been shown to be highly effective in helping couples improve their relationship satisfaction and communication skills through using the ‘Imago Dialogue’ technique at home.

Many couples report feeling more connected and understanding of each other after completing Imago therapy. Research studies have also found that Imago therapy can lead to significant improvements in relationship satisfaction and decreased levels of distress.

How would couples find an Imago therapist?

Couples can find an Imago therapist by searching online or asking for referrals from friends or family members who have gone through Imago therapy themselves.

There are also many Imago therapy workshops and retreats that couples can attend to learn more about Imago therapy and practise the skills in a group setting.

Of course, if they are in the Liverpool area they could contact me via my website.

What advice would you give to couples considering therapy?

My advice would be to approach Imago therapy with an open mind and a willingness to work on the relationship. Imago therapy can be a powerful tool for improving communication and connection in a relationship, but it requires both partners to be committed to the process.

It’s also important to find a therapist who is trained and experienced in Imago therapy and who you feel comfortable working with.

What happens when one partner is more keen than the other?

It’s not uncommon for one partner to be more enthusiastic about therapy than the other. In fact, it’s quite common for couples to have different levels of motivation and commitment to therapy.

In these cases, I work with the couple to understand the reasons for the differences in motivation and to create a safe and supportive space where both partners feel comfortable sharing their feelings and concerns using the ‘Imago Dialogue’ technique with each other.

It is very important that both partners are committed to attending the course of Imago Couples therapy together and I ask them both to commit to staying in their relationship for the initial 12 weeks of therapy without separating or starting divorce proceedings.

Ultimately, my goal is to create a collaborative and supportive environment where both partners can feel heard, understood, and empowered to work towards improving their relationship.