Our childhood, particularly our relationships with our parents and significant others, tends to have a significant impact on our personalities and relationships in adulthood as well, The Imago model, also known as Imago relationship therapy, is based on the same concept. It is a holistic and structured therapeutic approach designed to help couples reduce conflicts and improve relationships among partners. In this article, we’ll explore the Imago Model in depth.

What Is Imago Therapy?

Dr. Harville Hendrix and Dr. Helen LaKelly developed Imago therapy in the 1980s. Imago is the Latin word for ‘image’. Thus, imago therapy is based on the premise that people are attracted to partners who reflect both their caregivers’ positive and negative traits from childhood.  

The theory also suggests that early life experiences contribute to understanding love and safety. Thus, as adults, people unconsciously continue to seek partners similar to their parents to fulfil the unconscious image of love that was formed in their childhood  

Imago therapy aims to help people overcome relationship issues by addressing unresolved childhood issues and needs. It also makes partners aware of how their childhood experiences might be influencing their relationship dynamics in the present.

The Core Principles Of the Imago Therapy Model

There are five basic principles of imago therapy. They are:

  • Reimagining one’s partner as a wounded child
  • Re-kindling romance in the relationship through activities such as giving gifts, surprising your partner and appreciating each other.
  • Transform your disappointments and frustrations by converting complaints into requests.
  • Managing feelings of intense anger and seeking solutions.
  • Re-visioning one’s relationship as a source of happiness, satisfaction and safety

Techniques In Imago Therapy

Imago therapy is a structured approach that uses various tools and techniques to help couples reduce conflict and re-establish connection. They are:

  • The Imago Dialogue

The Imago dialogue is a structured process that aims to help both partners understand each other. During therapy sessions, couples are guided through this dialogue process, where one partner shares their thoughts and feelings while the other listens without interruption. This promotes a safe space for each partner to express themselves fully and be heard without judgment. It also helps couples reduce the use of hurtful or negative language in their communication.

  • Mirroring

Mirroring involves, one partner reflecting the words and emotions expressed by the other without adding interpretation or judgment. This helps partners improve their understanding of each other and also allows them to clarify something they did not understand.

  • Empathy And Validation

Empathy and validation are crucial parts of the imago therapy process. Validation conveys that both partners are understanding or are making efforts to understand each other’s feelings or perspectives. Through guided exercises and discussions, couples learn to empathize with each other’s experiences, validate their feelings, and respond with compassion rather than defensiveness. This shift in communication can lead to a deeper emotional connection and a more fulfilling relationship.

  • The Parent-Child Dialogue

A process where both partners talk about their respective childhood experiences and their feelings towards their parents or caregivers leads to an improved understanding of each other’s behaviours and needs

  • Behaviour Change Requests

Both partners take turns expressing what they would like their partners to improve so that they can feel safe in the relationship. In this process, needs are expressed in an empathetic way instead of frustration or anger, leading to conflict resolution in a safe environment

Is Imago Therapy An Effective Short-Term Approach?

While the research is limited, current literature suggests that imago therapy is indeed an effective approach for couples therapy. 

A study conducted in 2017 suggests that couples who underwent eight sessions of Imago therapy reported enhanced intimacy and reduced levels of marital burnout when compared to a control group. Another 2017 study revealed that undergoing 12 weeks of Imago therapy was associated with increased relationship satisfaction. 


In summary, The Imago Model is a structured therapeutic approach that aims to improve relationships by focusing on the crucial role of one’s early childhood experiences in adult relationships. It uses various techniques, such as imago dialogue, behavioural change requests and parent-child dialogue, to facilitate communication among partners. Research evidence also suggests that it is an effective approach to enhancing communication and relationship satisfaction among couples.


  1. How Imago Therapy Works. (n.d.). Verywell Mind. Retrieved April 19, 2024, from https://www.verywellmind.com/imago-therapy-4172955
  2. Imago therapy: Overview, benefits, types, and more. (2022, May 30). https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/imago-therapy

3. LPC, A. C. P. D., LMHC. (2021, October 25). What is Imago Relationship Therapy? Talkspace. https://www.talkspace.com/blog/imago-therapy/

Dhruva Koranne

Dhruva Koranne has completed his Masters in Applied Psychology from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, BALM. He has been practicing as a counsellor since 2020 and works to create a safe space for clients where they can open up. In addition to this, Dhruva loves researching and studying about upcoming theories in the field of Psychology. Connect with him on Linkedin