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What is Imago Relationship Therapy?

By Harriette Halepis
Updated Feb 17, 2024
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Imago relationship therapy was originally developed by Harville Hendrix, PhD. Hendrix collaborated with his wife, Helen LaKelley Hunt, PhD during the 1980s in order to develop a form of relationship therapy that was based upon the idea of a subconscious image. Both founders believed that men and women seek mates that are similar,subconsciously,to a void that was left behind by one's parents.

While seemingly complex, the idea behind Imago Relationship Therapy is quite simple. According to Hendrix, all humans learn to love in their own way from birth. Feelings of love and nurturing are observed from one's environment from the moment that a child is born. Shortly thereafter, children learn to develop "survival patterns," which are, essentially, behavioral patterns that are picked up as they grow.

Imago Relationship Therapy is based upon the assumption that a child may love freely and openly as an infant, but the same child quickly learns that love and acceptance is not given unless they perform in a way that pleases their parents. Therefore, it is assumed that all people are inherently lacking that original slice of love that was snatched from them once survival patterns were learned.

As a result, each person seeks a mate that contains the one element of love that was lost during childhood. Imago Relationship Therapy works towards finding out what that missing love link is. For example, a child that had an overly critical parent may be an adult perfectionist, and later find a mate that is the exact opposite of a perfectionist.

Based upon Imago Relationship Theory, even though finding a mate that conflicts with one's own interests may seem irritable, it is also subconsciously comforting. The goal of Imago Relationship Theory is to help couples connect with one another on both a subconscious and conscious level. Through dialogue, exercises, and other techniques, couples learn to become closer to one another.

There has been a lot of debate surrounding Imago Relationship Theory and its findings. While some experts within the psychology field feel that this type of therapy has many advantages, others are not entirely convinced. Regardless, this form of couples therapy is quite popular throughout the world. To find an Imago Relationship Therapy expert near you, take a look at the Harville Hendrix website. This site lists lots of sources, helpful information, and other facts. All Imago therapists must be certified, so make sure to ask for certification prior to booking a therapy appointment.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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