1.What is Imago Relationship Therapy?
Imago Relationship Therapy (IRT) is an innovative, optimistic, collaborative, non-confrontational approach to couple counseling. It focuses on healing past hurts that both partners brought with them, and that still influence and drive their current relationship. IRT helps partners to respond in a non-defensive way, which, in turn, brings back safety, nurturing, playfulness, creativity and joy to their relationship.
In IRT partners learn to communicate in a kind, accepting, tolerating and compassionate way, enabling them to re-connect in a way that rekindles the love and care they experienced when they first met each other.
For more information about Imago go to the "What's Imago" page on this website. You may also click on www.imagorelationships.org
2.As a couple, will you see us separately or together?
When something goes wrong with your car's transmission you bring your car to the mechanic to get it fixed. You can't just send the transmission over to the garage and expect that your car will run well. The same applies to relationships. When something goes awry in your relationship, both of you need to come in and bring your relationship with you. Your relationship resides in the space between the two of you! So we need both of you in the office, available and present to get maximum results.
In fact, once I start seeing you as a couple, I will neither see you nor will I speak to you on the phone separately. My goal is to stay neutral, so that you will feel safe with me and trust that I am not taking sides and that neither of you will be encouraged to "fill me in" about your partner, behind his/her back.
3. Who is a good candidate for IRT?
Since life is all about relationships and the place where we get into trouble is almost always in relationships, everyone who: (a) is in relationship; (b) is in a good relationship and wants to enhance it; (c) is single and wants to be in relationship; (c) doesn't have a good track record of keeping relationships; (d) isn't sure about whether to stay in a relationship, is a good candidate for Imago Relationship Therapy.
Other good candidates also include (e) parents in relationship with their children, as well as (f) in relationship with their own parents; (g) partners of all colors, ethnicities, sexual preferences, levels of education, religions, etc. who are already in committed relationships and are contemplating marriage or cohabitation; (h) bosses in relationship with their workers and vice versa; (i) as well as workers in relationships with their colleagues.
4. How often do you see couples?
Couple sessions are actually a double session (2 individual sessions, back to back) and last for 90 minutes. Couple sessions are scheduled on a weekly basis.
In case of a crisis or another compelling reason, I might suggest an "Intensive
." An intensive is a block of time consisting of: A 90 minutes session, a 90 minutes break, and a second 90 minutes session.
5. How much does couple therapy cost?
My fee schedule is in line with those of other LCSW therapists in my area. I will be happy to discuss my fees when you call me to schedule an appointment.
Back to top
6. Do you accept insurance?
Most insurance companies do not reimburse for couple therapy (and their definition of "Family Therapy" does not cover the couple alone, but rather the whole family.)
If your insurance company does offer out of network benefits for couple therapy, I will be happy to provide you with the completed claim form, with all the proper codes needed to process it, so you could send it in and be reimbursed for part of your costs. It will be your responsibility to check in with your insurance company to determine whether the services you are seeking are covered and what the limits of that coverage are.
7 Which is better, attending an Imago "Getting the Love you Want" Workshop or going to weekly therapy?
I recommend that you begin by attending weekly therapy sessions with your partner and then, at some point, with input from me, you will be able to decide when would be a good time for you to join this marvelously, exciting and life-changing experience.
A couples workshop will provide you with an Imago ideological overview and opportunity to practice some important Imago skills. It will, ultimately, save you time and money and you will have a solid foundation for your work in weekly sessions. The workshop will, in just one weekend, take your relationship to another level. These same results might take 4-6 months to achieve in the office setting.
By going to a workshop you will also be exposed to other couples who are part of a world-wide community of people committed to Imago's principles and relational way of life. It will also provide you with support and collegiality on your journey towards wholeness and joy.
8. I really want to start going to IRT. My partner is reluctant to join me, but he said he'd go, for me! Will we benefit from IRT if one of us is not enthusiastic?
It is very common, in fact, I'd say in every couple I have seen so far (and I have seen many couples throughout the years) one partner is the "dragger" and the other one is the "dragee." It does not cease to amaze me how enthusiastic, committed and responsive "dragees" become as the process continues and develops. They move from doubtful and resistant to "true believers" and collaborators. The Imago processes introduce safety, trust and empathy into the relationship and that allows "dragees" to give up, albeit slowly, their defensive armor. As long as someone is willing to give it a shot by coming in, there is hope!
9. My relationship/marriage is falling apart and I don't know if I want to stay married/in the relationship. Should I see you alone or with my partner?
If your marriage or committed relationship, is shaky, I recommend that you both come in together. The very least you will accomplish will be to gain some clarity about what are the issues between you; whether you would like to spend the time, energy and money to work on them; is your partner genuinely interested in the same; and if you are not up to working on this relationship, because there has been too much hurt and it's too late to save it, then you will find out what your options are.
IRT will also help you to understand what each of you (yes, you too) brought into the relationship to make it what it is today. This will be helpful to you in two ways: (1) you will learn about yourself and understand why you chose your partner, and (2) when you move on to the next relationship you
will be a better partner, because you will "know thyself," as well as your style of adaptation, defenses, wounds, conflicts, expectations and dreams. In Imago we say: "It's not about finding the right partner, it's about being the right partner."
If you decide to end your relationship, and especially if you have children whom you will be co-parenting after the break up, it's important that you be able to: (a) create a structure to help you parent the children without rancor and resentment, and (b) say 'good bye' to your relationship, respectfully and empathically, so you'd have some closure.
IRT is the most reliable and most compassionate system to accomplish these tasks.
10. My partner's children are driving me crazy. How can you help?
You fell in love and decided life without each other wouldn't be fun. You fantasized about how it would be when your children met hers, and vice versa. You imagined that all of you would be blended, smoothly and seamlessly, into one, big, happy family, running through the meadow with a puppy, a rainbow overhead and birds chirping in the background!!!
Unhappily, even though it didn't turn out this way, you certainly didn't expect step-parenting to be as difficult and frustrating as it has turned out to be. Stepfamilies are a huge challenge that sometimes defeats even the most caring, well intentioned, well adjusted partners. It presents the perfect proof that "love does not conquer all." In reality, your kids didn't choose to get divorced (or lose a parent) and to get remarried.
Using IRT I will help you to identify the issues and to develop a plan that will help you to help your family to work together and to function more harmoniously, compassionately and effectively, by creating a safe space
, in which each member of your newly created family will be honored and heard, surrounded by strong boundaries
, which will help you to define and protect your intimacy, privacy and love.
Back to top
11. We used to be very romantic before we had kids, now we have no time for each other, our kids are running our lives. How can IRT enhance our life?
When you first met and fell in love it was all very romantic. You held hands, kissed passionately at every opportunity and hugged a lot. You had candle light dinners. You tried to please each other "to the max." Not surprisingly, this relational stage is called the "Romantic Stage." It lasts about 18-24 months and then, like all other couples, you wake up one morning and find that you are in the middle of the "Power Struggle" stage. The kids, if you have any, only make it more problematic, because instead of focusing on what the Power Struggle is really
all about, you focus on the kids, fight with each other over your very different parenting styles and allegiances, as well as make inconsistent and confusing attempts at regaining your privacy and intimacy.
IRT will help you to explore, identify, manage and improve your intimacy AND your parenting skills. It will help you to set boundaries for the children while you learn specific communication skills. These skills will help you to resolve what's going on in the other parts of your "house" (a metaphor for your relationship,) so that your bedroom will become, once again, a place of warmth, excitement and love.
12. We are in a crisis. My partner has threatened to leave. I want to save our relationship. Do you have an intensive therapy program?
You may be in a crisis now, but I am sure you know that whatever finally "broke the camel's back" took a long time to accumulate on the back of that very same camel. In order to start working on the underlying causes of this crisis, you will first need help with stabilizing your relationship.
Experience has shown that a series of "Intensives
" can often make important shifts in the relationship. An Intensive
is a block of time consisting of two double sessions with a lunch break in between. For example: Session #1: 10:00 - 11:30; break: 11:30 - 12:30; session #2: 12:30 - 02:00.
13. My partner does not think any of our problems relate back to childhood. Will we still benefit from IRT?
Absolutely. The connections between our frustrations in the current relationship and early childhood experiences are not necessarily accepted by or clear to many people. However, whether or not we believe it consciously, our unconscious mind definitely connects the two. Imago's tools of active listening, validations and empathy, when consistently used, create a sense of trust, safety and unconditional acceptance. With safety from the fear of being scorned, criticized and not being understood, "doubters" can begin to allow themselves to go back into childhood and see, for themselves, the connection.
14. We have waited very long to seek help with our problems. Is it too late for us?
It is never too late to learn what the underlying causes for your difficulties in this relationship are. Many couples who start IRT even as they are on the verge of divorcing (some have even filed for a divorce by the time they come in,) find renewed hope for the future because IRT gives them an opportunity to relate to their partner in a new, safer, deeper way.
For some couples, indeed, it might be too late because they have lived through so many years of mutual hurt, mistrust, betrayals, resentments and anger.
Studies show that when we don't resolve our issues in the current relationship they will pop up in the next one, and the next one, etc. Since I trust that you would not want to recreate another nightmare in your next relationship and since you are powerless to change anyone else but yourself, you might want to know what you contributed to the problem so that you could work on it, resolve it, and not take it with you. So, whether you decide to stay or break up, IRT will give you the essential information about yourself to take into your next relationship, so you can maximize the chances for its success.
15. We are getting along well, but we want to avoid the mistakes each of us
made in past relationships. Is it too soon for us to attend IRT?
15A.We just got engaged; we are very much in love and are getting along great, should we come in for pre-marital Imago Relationship Therapy?
Since we learn how to be in relationships from our parents and, unfortunately, most of us come from parents whose relationship wasn't a really great model of how to deal with conflict and frustrations, it is the rare couple who would not benefit from IRT.
In fact, Imago is the perfect form of therapy for pre-marital counseling and for couples who want to enhance an already good relationship and move it to a more evolved and deeper level.
There is tremendous healing in learning that conflict and frustration are part of the natural dance of relationships, that "compatibility comes about not through sameness, but through respect for (your) differences," that there are ways to repair ruptures, that what upsets us about our partner tells us volumes about ourselves, that "conflict is growth trying to happen," and that each repair brings about a deeper and more lasting reconnection
Learning essential relationship tools as early as possible, is the best way to ensure a lifelong, fulfilling relationship.
Back to top
16. What if we are just incompatible. Why not just face the truth and move on?
Our culture would have us do just that. Incompatibility is grounds for divorce in our society even though this concept is the opposite of what nature intended for us. Divorce is society's response to the (dare I say) childish wish for idealized, conflict free relationships that never change, ala the "happy ever after" of a Grimm's fairy tale or the happy ending of a Hollywood movie.
Incompatibility is, actually, human beings' natural state of being. The true challenge presented by nature to you, as a human, is how to grow up and manage your incompatibility and love someone different from yourself. Divorce does not solve marriage problems. It only gets rid of your partner. You still get to keep all your issues (lucky you) only to take them with you, like an old, shabby set of luggage, to your next relationship. I describe it as "the same dance, but with a new partner."
So, the way I see it, you might as well work out those pesky issues in this
relationship, especially if you have some history together, a couple of kids, a house, a dog, a set of friends, etc because , God knows, they (those pesky issues)will come back to bite you no matter who your next lucky partner will be.
17. Does IRT work for gay and lesbian couples?
Do you work with gay and lesbian couples?
Yes and yes. IRT can and does work for all couples/individuals, no matter their sexual orientation,, their ethnic or racial background, religion, personal history or level of education.
Because relationships hold certain common characteristics and dynamics, relationship issues are fairly universal. However, even having said that, gays and lesbians have certain issues particular to their relationships that need to be acknowledged and addressed, that other couples may not have. Examples include: social stigma, secrecy, family rejection, invisibility, internalized homophobia (self contempt for being gay/lesbian,) lack of support, etc. It is similar to addressing specific issues with couples of various cultural or religious backgrounds, e.g. rigid male/female roles in certain cultures that might need to be addressed for the sake of the relationship.
In reality, every relationship is as unique and different as the partners within it, while manifesting similarities and patterns that hold true across diverse background and experiences.
18. My partner is not a great talker. I am afraid s/he will just sit there and say nothing. That's actually what happened in our last couple therapy. How will IRT be different?
From my work with, both, individuals and couples, people who present themselves as non-talkers, or non-communicative, or "the silent type," have adapted this defensive measure because somewhere in their experience, whether in early childhood or in another, previous relationship, or in this one, they have felt attacked, criticized, shamed, belittled, inadequate, powerless, etc. Why, indeed, would someone, who was made to feel that way, even want to open their mouth to say "boo"? To them the danger of repeating those painful feelings is too great and they won't take a chance.
The IRT process promotes safety, compassion, empathy and validation (though not necessarily agreement) for the partner's reality and point of view. When someone is faced, over and over, again with acceptance and sympathy from their partner, they slowly begin to take a chance and open up. It takes awhile; it's not an overnight occurrence. It requires patience, perseverance and trust in the process. When it happens it's truly a beautiful thing!
19. Last time we went to couple therapy we sat in the office and fought every session. It was a total waste of our time and money. How will our experience be different in your office?
I hear that question a lot. It seems like couples come into a therapist's office expecting the therapist to become their referee and tell them who is right (and only one of them, of course, can be right!) It is then that the therapy session turns out to be a version of the "Fight of the Week."
This is not even close to what happens in a session with a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist. I begin each session with a short relaxation exercise to help the couple to get centered and prepare themselves for the work ahead. Then, each partner gives an "Imago Appreciation" to their partner, for some positive behavior they experienced during the week. I often use the next few moments to teach the partners a concept or two about relationships and then it's time to dialogue.
The Imago Dialogue is a wonderfully gentle, kind, authentic and effective way to communicate, insuring that each partner, taking turns, (a) has an opportunity to talk about something that might frustrate or bother him/her and then (b) is heard, understood, validated and empathized with.
People will only fight when they feel unheard, misunderstood, powerless, despairing. In an IRT session there is really no reason to fight because the Imago Dialogue short circuits all of this, making the need for either defensiveness or attack - obsolete and counter productive.
So, not to worry. You will find that you will have neither the chance nor the need to fight and waste your time and money on something you can do for free at home!
- Back to top