Couples: An Introduction to Imago Relationship Therapy

Imago Relationship Therapy

An Introduction to Imago Relationship Therapy, by Jane Ferguson, an Irish based Imago Relationship Therapist.


Hello my name is Jane Ferguson and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to introduce you to imago relationship therapy, as a theory it is systematic, clear and comprehensive and it keeps up-to-date with current research. The theory explains why we are attracted to certain people, it helps couples and individuals to understand the nature and cycle of the relationship journey, it explains the role of conflict in the relationship and it also helps us to see how past experiences impact on our present relationships.

As a therapy it is simple, straightforward and effective. During the therapy you will learn skills and processes that will help you to identify the real cause of your conflict. It will help you to work through your conflict. And it will enable you to transform your relationships. The therapy provides a safe environment to explore painful and sensitive issues. And it will enable you to create a future that is filled with hope. In terms of the relationship journey, have you ever wondered why you fell in love with your partner? Scientists tells us that when we fall in love our brains are flooded with a whole cocktail of hormones and chemicals that make our heart beat faster, it causes our knees to go weak and also makes us feel good about ourselves and our partners. But scientists can’t explain why this happens. According to imago theory we are unconsciously internalise both the good and the not so good experiences and characteristics of the people who are close to us in childhood. These create an internal image that we call the imago, as we grow up and begin to scan the world for a partner, we’re attracted to someone who in some way matches our imago, when that imago match takes place the hormones and the chemicals are released into our bodies and we fall head over heals in love. Sadly this first phase of the relationship journey, the romantic love only lasts long enough for us to make a commitment to each other and when couples find that; that wonderful feeling of being in love plummets into anger, despair, pain and sadness, they begin to question whether they made the right choice.

These couples are in the second phase of the relationship journey which we call the power struggle. During this phase couples either begin to have a series of passionate arguments or they begin to live parallel lives of discontentment co-existence. They have their own friends and activities. And they live in a relationship of convenience either for the sake of the children or for perhaps financial reasons or perhaps the couple might separate or divorce, but separation and divorce aren’t the answer, because you might get rid of your partner but you take the problems into the next relationship. The good news is that the power struggles is meant to end.

The focus of imago relationship therapy is the third stage of the relationship journey; conscience relating, the imago therapist will help you to explore five areas of conscience relating. The first is recommitment, we will help you to identify you exists and to begin to close those exits so that you can refocus your energies on your relationship. We will help you to restructure your frustrations with a process that will help you to explore and identify the frustrations and come to a mutually agreed resolution. We will help you to reimage your partner, through a clearer understanding of you partner you will see you partner through kinder and more compassionate eyes. We will help you to re-romanticise your relationship to caring behaviours, through surprises and also through fun activities together. And we will help you to re-vision your relationship, you will create a shared vision and we will help you to outline the steps to make that vision a reality in your life.

The core skill of the imago therapy is the imago dialogue or the intentional dialogue. This dialogue has a simple structure. The first partner that we call the sender presents their experience, the other partner that we call the receiver, mirrors back exactly what they hear their partner saying. And asks the question is there more until their partner is finished. The receiver will then validate the sender, that is, they will demonstrate that they understand where the sender is coming from. The receiver will then empathise with the sender, that is that they will put themselves in the senders shoes and try to imagine what it must be like for them, this structure might feel a little forced and strange at first, but with practice the dialogue flows seamlessly and facilitates connection, understanding and deep intimacy what we find happening is that couples begin to experience that falling in love sensation once again.

The imago process has the potential to transform your relationship. It will enable you to identify and work through your conflicts and it will help you to create the relationship of your dreams.

Thank you.