What Is Imago Relationship Therapy?

Imago Relationship Therapy is an integrated theory and process for working with couples, parents, and children, business colleagues, and others who seek to enhance the relationships they share. Based on the groundbreaking work of Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., author of Getting the Love You Want, Keeping the Love You Find, and Giving the Love That Heals.

Imago therapy is a wonderfully effective and safe approach to helping relationship partners grow into understanding each other more fully and relating more honestly as they evolve into greater wholeness as individuals within the relational context they share. Imago is also relevant for single individuals as we are all in many relational contexts. Imago relationship therapy is particularly helpful to single individuals when experienced in a group therapy process.

The basic principles of Imago Relationship Therapy are as follows:

  • We were born whole and complete.

  • We became wounded during the early nurturing and socialization stages of development by our primary caretakers.

  • We have a composite image of all the positive and negative traits of our primary caretakers deep in our unconscious mind. This is called the Imago. It is like the unconscious blueprint of the one we need to be our partner in a committed, intimate relationship.

  • We look for someone who is an "Imago match," that is, someone who matches up with the composite image of our primary caretakers. This is important because we marry or commit for the purpose of healing and finishing the unfinished business of childhood. Our parents are the ones who wounded us, but a primary love partner who matches their traits is their stand-in.

  • Romantic love is the door to a committed relationship and/or marriage and is nature's way of connecting us with the perfect partner for our eventual healing.

  • We move into a power struggle as soon as we make a commitment to this person. The power struggle is necessary, for imbedded in a couple's frustrations lies the information for healing and growth.

  • The first two stages of a committed relationship, "romantic love" and the "power struggle," are engaged in at an unconscious level. Our unconscious mind chose our partner for the purpose of healing childhood wounds.

  • Inevitably, our love partner is incompatible with us and least able to meet our needs and most able to wound us all over again.

  • The goal of Imago Relationship Therapy is to align our conscious mind, which usually wants happiness and good feelings, with the agenda of the unconscious mind, which wants healing and growth. Thus, the goal of therapy is to assist clients to develop conscious, intimate, committed relationships.

  • This transition cannot take place through insight alone. Specific skills and processes are necessary that need to be practiced daily to shift us from having an unconscious relationship to a conscious relationship.

  • It takes commitment, courage, consciousness, patience, and love to create a safe, loving, and passionate relationship.

Please follow this link for additional information about Imago Couples Therapy, which has information, articles, books, etc. about the theory and practice.

Sign-up for Imago Connections,
a monthly e-newsletter

Each month a couple shares how Imago Therapy has helped them. There's a “relationship tip” each month and an Imago therapist is featured.

Note: If you are a therapist, you will find information about the clinical training on the IRI Website. In order to be considered for the clinical training, you must have attended a Discover A New Way to Love Weekend Workshop, aka Getting the Love You Want Couples Weekend as a prerequisite.


Below is a short bibliography of books that compliment Imago theory that Carole Kirby recommends.

Bibliography ~ The Short List

Getting the Love You Want, A Guide for Couples by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D.

Giving the Love That Heals, A Guide for Parents, by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. and Helen Hunt, M.A., M.L.A.

The Art of Everyday Ecstacy, The Seven Tantric Keys for Bringing Passion, Spirit, and Joy into Every Part of Your Life, Margo Anand

The Conscious Heart, Seven Soul~Choices That Create Your Relationship Destiny, Gay Hendricks, Ph.D. and Kathleen Hendricks, Ph.D.

Hot Monogamy, Essential Steps to More Passionate, Intimate Lovemaking, Patricia Love, Ed.D. and Jo Robinson

Keeping the Love You Find, A Guide For Singles, Harville Hendrix, PhD

Love and Awakening, Discovering the Sacred Path of Intimate Relationship, John Welwood

Loving Your Partner Without Losing Yourself, Martha Beveridge, MSSW

Partnering, A New Kind of Relationship, How to Love Each Other Without Losing Yourselves, Hal & Sidra Stone, PhD

Receiving Love, Transform Your Relationship by Letting Yourself Be Loved by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. and Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D.

True Love, How to Make Your Relationship Sweeter, Deeper, and More Passionate, Daphne Rose Kingma

The Truth About Love, The Highs and Lows, and How You Can Make It Last Forever, Pat Love, Ed.D

Undefended Love, Jett Psaris, PhD and Marlena S. Lyons, PhD


Carole recommends these articles

Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson
reprint from Psychology Today ~view PDF~

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