Imago Therapy and my Imago Match

Imago Therapy and my Imago Match

Because I am certified to provide imago therapy, and I help couples unravel how they become an imago match when a couple comes to me for help with their relationship, one of the first things I ask is, “What did you have for dinner last night?” It is amazing how much I can learn from this question, unearthing volumes of information about the couple without their even realizing it. 

Uh, you know I’m not being serious, right? 
While my obsession with relationships stems as far back as I can remember, my desire for couples-counseling-super-powers started when I read this book: Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix. This book changed everything. It was just one of those moments where I knew. I knew exactly who I was, who I was to become, and the path I needed to walk. I was immediately fascinated by the power of understanding our imago match, and how imago therapy can help improve relationships.

That’s the thing about therapy – it’s easy to believe that anything a therapist says. I tend to be that way with mechanics, plumbers, electricians, and web designers. I generally assume that if this is their specialty, they know what they are talking about. Sometimes, however, like the time I had my transmission “fixed,” specialists are not so special after all.

What you want to be sure of is that your therapist has some additional training (beyond their counseling degree), that is specifically focused on relationship counseling. This is a specialty in itself. Certifications to look for are – Imago Certified Therapist, Gottman Certified Therapists, and EFT Certified Therapists. I happen to be Certified in Imago therapy and Gottman trained with partial EFT training that I plan to continue pursuing (because if I long to have couples-counseling-super-powers). I am also a Discernment Counselor, but that’s for couples who don’t want couples counseling; instead, they want to “discern” whether or not they want to make their relationship work before actually committing to couples counseling.

I returned to the School of Social Work for my MSW, and for nearly two decades now, I am still as passionate about the Imago theory, and about working with couples – maybe even more so!

The Imago theory is explained in the book, Getting the Love You Want, and the more you understand the theory, the more you realize how easy it is to answer the following four questions:

imago therapy, imago match


  • With what type of person am I most likely to create a passionate relationship?
  • With what type of person am I most likely to feel safe in a relationship?’
  • What do I most want to experience in my relationships that my partner has the most trouble helping me experience?
  • How do I participate in NOT getting the love that I want

See if this Imago formula will help you begin to find answers to these questions. I’d love to hear your feedback!

How Imago therapy helps couples understand with imago relationship therapy

How Imago therapy helps couples understand with imago relationship therapy

Why Are We Attracted to Certain People and Not Others?

The Imago Theory explains our attractions. When it comes to attraction, we do not decide who we are drawn to, only whether or not we will do something about our attraction. Imago Relationship Therapy is a form of relationship counseling that helps couples identify how their unconscious mind affects their relationship. This process is involuntary. I think that most of us can say with certainty that we have found ourselves attracted to someone whom in retrospect, we find ourselves asking, “What was I thinking?” The point is, you weren’t. You were feeling, and the feelings were likely very unconscious.

Attraction is a feeling.  It is an intuitive pull toward someone that can, at times, be unexplainable. Although our thoughts influence our feelings, our attractions are a product of many unknown (unconscious) variables that often do not always make sense. Imago therapy helps us work to understand them. That’s where the Imago Relationship therapy comes in.  What is important to understand is that our attractions can exist separate from a decision to act on them. We do not have control of who we find attractive, we simply have control over how we respond to this attraction.

What is the Imago Theory?

In the early 90’s, psychologist Harville Hendrix gave us a way to understand love, attraction and, relationships in his book, “Getting the Love You Want.” He called this the Imago Theory. This theory says that during our childhood, we develop an imprint of the positive and negative traits of our primary caregivers. This imprint is a collection of images and experiences that are both conscious and unconscious, and they form what is called our “IMAGO.” Imago is simply another word for image. This imprint or “imago" represents what is familiar, which includes both the good experiences as well as the uncomfortable ones.

Over time, our imago develops into an unconscious guiding force in our life. It serves as a map, directing us toward others who fit this image. Similar to a magnet that can both attract and repel, our imago can do the same. If we draw partners that do not reflect what is familiar, we either project our beliefs onto them so that it appears they are who we expected them to be in the end, or we elicit from them the behaviors we have come to expect.

We are not aware (unconscious) of it when it happens. That’s the benefit of imago therapy. We can begin to understand the formula behind that magnetic force in our imago, and how it can pull into our lives all of the people, relationships, and experiences that we need to recreate many of the painful aspects of our childhood. And likewise, the magnetic force of our imago tends to repel those people, experiences, and situations that do not fit with what is familiar.

What is Imago Relationship Therapy?

By using the Imago theory to understand our unconscious mind, we can unknot some of our childhood experiences and wounds.  The Imago therapist is trained to help you uncover the influences of your unconscious mind.  Many of the frustrations we experience in our adult romantic relationships, we also felt as a child.  For example, if as a child I felt like nothing I did was good enough, I am likely to attract a partner with whom I have this same feeling.

Once the imago therapist can help you uncover your unconscious influences, also known as your “imago,” you can begin to incorporate new skills in your relationship.  Imago Therapy helps couples develop a deeper understanding of one another's unconscious imprint on their relationship.  Through a communication skill that is taught called, The Intentional Dialogue, partner's can connect their real-life issues of today to the unconscious roots that drive reactions, defensiveness, and other ineffective behaviors. With a more productive, more conscious, awareness of what is motivating one another's hurtful, confusing or ineffective behaviors. Understanding what is going on helps each partner de-personalize the behaviors and creates the opportunity for improved communication, connection, and a deeper love, to grow.

The goal of imago relationship therapy is to be able to develop a conscious relationship where you are aware of how you are feeling, and in charge of how you are reacting.  Otherwise, you are likely experiencing unnecessary frustrations because your defenses are trying to be heard and understood by your partner’s defenses.  This dance of defensiveness is very ineffective and can lead to a very lonely experience inside a relationship.

If you are interested in learning more about the Imago Theory, you can start by reading this book. If you think this is a good option for your own relationship growth, you can schedule an appointment to get started with the link below. 

To understand the impact of your childhood experiences on your relationship today, learn more about "home countries," in this post.