Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions


What is Imago?

Does my relationship or marriage have to be in trouble before I can benefit from Imago?

Why does Imago place such an emphasis on building trust in relationships?

Is there a big difference between the work I might do with an Imago Therapist versus other forms of marriage counseling?

What if I want to end my relationship?

How long can my partner and I expect to stay in therapy?

What if I am single? How can Imago help me?

Does Imago Theory apply to Gay and Lesbian partnerships?

What qualifications are necessary for Imago therapists?

Does Harville Hendrix still do workshops or marriage counseling?



What is Imago?

The Imago, a Latin word for image, begins forming in infancy (probably in the womb) and consists of positive and negative messages we receive from parents, teachers, siblings, peers and others in our lives.  These messages are cumulative and are stored in our unconscious mind.  As adults we choose a partner to whom our unconscious is attracted based on the image we have of the perfect "other."


As we grow up, we learn to adapt to the messages we receive in order to survive.  That is, we develop defenses that we believe keep us safe.  We react to our partner in the same manner we reacted to our parents and others.  We recreate early experiences in order to get what we did not get in childhood.  The brain is designed to assure physical survival.  It reacts to anything in its environment that resembles earlier perceived threats, such as a facial expression, tone of voice, words or behavior.  Perceptions, attitudes, reactions and behaviors are shaped by early images.


Imago Relationship Therapy and Imago Workshops for Couples, Individuals and Parents are based on the Imago Theory developed by Dr. Harville Hendrix.  His therapeutic approach offers a sense of hope and safety.  It provides an opportunity to heal old wounds and to reclaim the individual's wholeness, aliveness and develop the passionate relationship of his/her dreams.  Unconscious developmental needs triggered in a relationship are integrated with the conscious desire for safety, real love, intimacy, connection and joy.

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Does my relationship or marriage have to be in trouble before I can benefit from Imago?

No.  Imago's unique communication skills for families can help strengthen the feeling of love and connection in any relationship.  Through Imago therapy, couples appreciate their partners more by gaining insight into why they fell in love in the initial stages of their relationship, and through the dialogue process, couples develop a deeper level of empathy for one another, creating an environment of trust and emotional safety.

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Why does Imago place such an emphasis on building trust in relationships?

Until you feel really safe to discuss things with your partner, it will be difficult to have the conversations that will help you revive the passion and hope in your relationship.  Imago dialoguing creates a safe frame for couples to build understanding and trust.  As your communication skills improve, you learn about what your partner thinks and feels, and work together to make the relationship far stronger and more joyful.

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Is there a big difference between the work I might do with an Imago Therapist versus other forms of marriage counseling?

The main difference between Imago therapy and traditional marriage counseling is that Imago therapists believe that individuals heal from the wounding of early development by creating emotional safety while in relationship with another.  This focus on the relationship as a process for healing sets Imago apart from other forms of marriage therapy where the emphasis is on the individual and on negotiating contracts.  Imago therapy creates meaningful communication and interaction between you and your partner.  You will spend much of your time in dialogue, while the therapist acts as your guide and coach.  This enables you and your partner to develop your own expertise in couple's communication therapy, so that you acquire the tools you both need for repairing relationships, creating safety, and keeping your love alive.

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What if I want to end my relationship?

No matter the stage of your relationship, romantic stage, power struggle, or even if you are contemplating ending your relationship, Imago therapy can provide clarity about what you and your partner should do next, and provides the skills you will need to help you reach your goals.  Many couples find new hope and optimism as a result of what they learn through the therapy process.  However, some couples discover that the energy and love has left their relationship and they decide to separate.  Even if that is your decision, Imago therapy provides a framework in which you can respectfully say good-bye.  This is especially critical if you have children that the two of you will be co-parenting.  And regardless of having children or not, it is important to understand how you co-created your current relationship.  You are going to bring your IMAGO to whatever relationship you experience in the future, and if you don't make that unconscious information conscious, you will likely experience a reenactment of your previous relationships.  But for the most part, the majority of couples leave therapy with new energy, tools and skills to navigate through any future difficulties, and develop hope for the road ahead.

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How long can my partner and I expect to stay in therapy?

That depends on several variables, including the level of wounding you both experienced during early childhood, how much you've hurt each other in your current relationship, and the depth of your commitment and ability to apply what you learn at home, between sessions.  One of the strengths of Imago therapy is that it tends to move people fairly quickly into being able to manage the challenges that life presents them, by providing communication tools to resolve conflict, contain anger, and to create safety.  Some couples achieve the results they want in 10-12 sessions.  Other couples prefer a longer, psycho-educational approach to therapy.

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What if I am single?  How can Imago help me?

Imago also provides relationship advice for Singles and Individuals, based on the best-selling book by Harville Hendrix entitled "Keeping the Love You Find:  A Personal Guide."  As a single person, you are in an ideal position to learn what you need to know and what you can do to greatly improve your chances for finding, and keeping, love.  Through Imago therapy, you will learn to:

  • identify your Imago, the fantasy partner that your unconscious mind, which has an agenda of its own, has chosen for you
  • break free from those patterns in your parent's marriage that you have unknowingly accepted as your relationship model
  • create hope in place of despair, companionship instead of loneliness
  • develop communication skills to turn conflict into connection
  • transform every past relationship into a source of positive growth
  • practice new relationship skills on your inner self
  • discover the rewards of real love and the little things that make it last
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Does Imago Theory apply to Gay and Lesbian partnerships?

Gay and Lesbian couples face unique challenges in addition to the issues that other couples face.  Imago therapy works well with all couples regardless of sexual orientation, ethnic or racial background, religion, personal history, or level of education.

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What qualifications are necessary for Imago therapists?

All Certified Imago Therapists are required to maintain professional qualifications in the State or Country where they are located.  In the USA this will include holding an advanced degree (Masters or Doctorate), and a license to practice psychotherapy if it is required in their state. The most common degrees are MA or MS in counseling, MSW in social work, M.Div in Pastoral counseling or PhD in clinical psychology.  Imago International also requires certified therapists to maintain membership in a recognized professional association, such as NASW for clinical social workers, AAMFT for marriage and family therapists, AAPC for Pastoral counselors, APA for psychologists, AMA for psychiatrists.

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Does Harville Hendrix still do workshops or marriage counseling?

Harville Hendrix, PhD and his wife Helen LaKelly Hunt, PhD are the co-founders of Imago Relationship Therapy, and together have written books which include the best-seller "Getting the Love You Want: a Guide for Couples" and "Keeping the Love You Find: A Guide for Singles."  Dr. Hendrix has trained many Imago therapists worldwide, and has established the Imago Faculty to continue the work of therapist training. He no longer provides private marriage counseling, but together with Dr. Hunt, makes presentations at conferences, and also presents one or two couples workshops each year.

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