Imago Relationship Therapy


This approach was developed by Dr. Harville Hendrix. In the mid 70s, he started workshops for couples to help them develop new ways to interact. In 1988, he published the book, Getting the Love you Want based on what he had learned and developed in those workshops. The workshops have been refined, but are basically the same. They are copyrighted and cover a set body of content. GTLYW workshop deals with the interaction between the couple. 

‘Imago’ means a pattern of behavior and interactions that we noticed in our care-takers from very early in life. It seems that is what someone who cares about us will look like. John Sullivan of Windsor, ON was a member of the first group of therapists who trained in the Imago method with Dr. Hendrix. He and his wife spent some time as missionaries in Africa. He sees characteristics of zebras as illustrating the Imago. He points out that, although zebras may look like horses, they are different at birth. Zebras do not get up right away, but may take up to 20 hours to stand up and feed. During that time, the zebra mother circles the baby continually, so that the baby can memorize her stripe pattern. Scientists say each zebra’s stripe pattern is as individual as a human fingerprint. If there is a threat and the baby runs to the right mother, she will defend him. Otherwise, he could be lion lunch! 

We think that humans notice aspects of their caretakers as surely as the zebra—probably micro muscle movements, body posture, voice tone, etc. These all contribute to our Imago, and we will be attracted to someone who has at least part of that pattern. Have you ever said to a potential partner, ‘I can’t believe I’ve only known you for a week--it’s as if I’ve known you forever!’ 

We often get into a pattern of repeated interactions in our relationships. We react to a situation in the best way to deal with it (from our perspective!) This is often the partner’s worst nightmare and the partner’s response may be the worst possibility for us! GTLYW workshops examine this typical dilemma and give alternative processes to avoid these ‘autopilot’ reactions. Couples learn to interpret their interaction differently and to connect in a deeper and more satisfying way that promotes the growth of each. 

This is the same area that is explored in Imago Relationship Therapy or in the GTLYW workshops. In workshops, couples explore their own and partner’s patterns of interaction, how these were formed, purposes they served, and what might be more constructive forms of interaction. 

Keeping The Love You Find workshops were originally described s being for singles, but they are for everyone. They deal with our character that we take into any interaction and will influence the relationship and our experience of it. This includes what will stand out for each of us in any situation, how we interpret it, what we are sensitive to, and how will react in interactions. 

Dr. Hendrix proposes that we take our part with us into each relationship and that part will constitute 80-90% of what we will find problematic in the relationship. This leaves little chance that we will have a better relationship with a new partner. 

We believe it is possible to engage in individual growth that will change what we take into a partnership. However, this is not typical individual therapy. It is the part of us that we ‘don’t know we don’t know.’ It is the aspects of our potential that a partner may see and initially admire, but possibly later criticize. 

KTLYF workshops or therapy is an exciting journey into our own potential. It also enables each person to change the type of relationships he/she gets into and the ways he/she has available to react in relationships. It is our gateway to reclaim functioning and energy that we had blocked off.
To watch Sunny Shulkin, my clinical trainer: