Blog Posts

Deepening Bonds with Imago: Nurturing Empathy and Understanding in Relationships

By Philipa Thornton, Psychologist and Imago Relationship Therapy Expert

After decades as a psychologist specializing in relationship therapy, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing countless couples transform their relationships through Imago Relationship Therapy. This journey, both personal and professional, has been a testament to the power of understanding, empathy, and connection in fostering stronger bonds.

Understanding the Imago Concept

Imago Relationship Therapy, developed by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., and Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D., is based on a simple yet profound idea: our intimate relationships mirror the needs, fears, and experiences of our childhood. The term ‘Imago,’ Latin for ‘image,’ refers to the subconscious image of familiar love we carry with us, shaped by early interactions with caregivers. This image often guides us unconsciously in choosing our partners.

Personal Journey with Imago

My experience with Imago started several years ago when I realized that the approach enriched my professional skills and illuminated my personal path. Like many, I discovered parts of my ‘Imago’ in my husband, leading us to a deeper understanding of each other’s worlds. Our communication improved significantly, fostering a relationship filled with more empathy and less conflict. It was amazing to share such a magical experience learning more about my spouse’s inner world.

Couples’ Transformations

What’s truly remarkable is watching couples experience their own transformations. One couple, struggling with repetitive arguments, learned through Imago to see beyond the surface-level issues. They uncovered deep-seated vulnerabilities, leading to a newfound appreciation, compassion, and for each other.

Another couple, on the brink of separation, found hope in Imago workshops. Getting the Love You Want offered a reconnecting healing weekend beginning a new journey toward a deeper sense of security in their partnership. They learned to communicate their needs and fears without judgment or defensiveness. This safe space for dialogue allowed them to rebuild their trust and intimacy.

Core Principles of Imago

  1. Safe Communication: Imago emphasizes respectful and empathetic dialogue. Couples learn to express their feelings and needs without blame or criticism, creating a safe environment for both partners.
  2. Understanding Childhood Influences: By exploring how our past shapes our present, couples gain insights into their behaviors and reactions. This understanding fosters compassion and reduces conflict.
  3. Healing and Growth: Imago therapy is not just about resolving conflicts; it’s about growth and healing. Couples often find that as they work through their issues, they develop stronger, more fulfilling relationships. The benefits flow onto their children and the important others we all have in our lives.
  4. Empathy and Validation: Learning to validate and empathize with each other’s experiences is a cornerstone of Imago. This process deepens emotional connections and fosters a supportive partnership. Being seen, heard, and valued is priceless.

Why Choose Imago Therapy?

Couples choose Imago because it offers more than a quick fix. It’s a journey towards a deeper, more meaningful connection. It’s suited for all stages of a relationship, whether you’re newly in love, navigating rough waters, or simply seeking to deepen your bond.

How important is it for you to be seen and supported in meaningful ways? With Imago Therapy you and your partner will know the real, loving you.
How important is it for you to be seen and supported in meaningful ways? With Imago Therapy you and your partner will know the real, loving you.

Final Thoughts

In my career, I’ve witnessed the transformative power of Imago Relationship Therapy firsthand. It’s a tool not just for resolving conflicts, but for building a foundation of understanding and empathy that can weather any storm. The rewards are immeasurable for couples willing to embark on this journey – a relationship based on true understanding, respect, and love.

Remember, the path to a fulfilling relationship is not always easy, but with the right tools and guidance, it’s certainly possible. If you’re interested in exploring Imago Relationship Therapy and coaching, feel free to reach out. Let’s embark on this transformative journey together. Both Chris my husband and I offer Imago Relational Coaching in person or online.

Therapist’s Learn Imago Now! With Clinical Training Online

It’s no surprise to hear me talking about Imago Couples therapy. Chris and I use this as our go-to relationship healing toolkit. In my office, I see a visible sigh and sense of relief as I share with many clients that Imago’s marital therapy got Chris and me through a sticky patch in our marriage.

For me, Imago therapy is both professionally and personally tried and true.

Lots of you may not know one of my other professional hats is as Training Coordinator for the Australia( AIRTA) executive committee – The Association for Imago Relationship Australia. Going to Las Vegas for the annual Imago Conference in October, but that’s for another post.

So let me proudly share our next learning opportunity for therapists, counsellors, psychologists, Doctors, and other mental health professionals or career transitioners.

Imago Module 1 Clinical Training.

October 24 Online AEDT 9-11 am

Would you love seeing your clients reconnecting, softening and potentially healing together? Imago therapy offers you the relationship and connection as the key to opening the door to heartfelt communion, communication, and collaboration.

Imagine relational coaching where you expertly and elegantly attune to your client’s goals and deepest desires for joy.

Imago Relationship Therapy #love #Imago
Imago Relationship Therapy #love #Imagojonathan-borba-aBNnuIoW1lo-unsplash

Imago Therapy offers emotionally safe,  healthy, and loving relationships with a way forward for couples.

Imago clinical training gives you specific, strategic tools while allowing your therapy alchemy.

Allowing you to feel comfortable, contained, and compassionate to anyone who walks into your office. From this perspective, your therapist part will be able to hold and assist couple reactivity and disconnection with a sense of calm-centered being. Allowing your client to show up in their relationship. Imagine feeling that flow of creativity and energy in your office or online. Well, you can!

This truly practical and transformational training will increase your awareness of your own personal and therapeutic potential, whether in a relationship with your clients, your partner, and/or the world.

Imago Relationship Therapy (IRT) is a complete therapy and offers a comprehensive theory informing its application, as developed by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., and Helen LaKelly Hunt. 

IRT masterfully connects psychology, object relations, systems theory, and humanistic-existential theory into a systematic approach to working with relationships.

Learn to spark joy working with clients through the Imago Clinical Training program (ICT). As therapists, we will know how to assist couples with profound insights and real relationship-enhancing results.

It is exciting to know you will gain confidence and experience enough to be using Imago tools in your next couple sessions.

You will find yourself feeling rewarded and invigorated in your couple’s work,  or as you start as a relationship coach with clients leaving with a smile, holding hands, and most importantly having hope to move beyond painful patterns.

We are all part of the relational system, we are born to love and be loved.

Benefits of the Imago model…

  • Real-world skills your clients can take from your rooms and apply in their day-to-day experience
  • Incorporates tried and true clinical methodologies
  • You will have to hand powerful and effective system of interventions and techniques adaptable to your unique client needs
  • Lived experience as you grow and develop both personally and professionally.
  • Targeted Interventions are specific to your unique client needs.
  • There is no one-size-fits-all cookie-cutter model.

Imago is designed to assist therapists in developing skills with a solid sense of confidence and real competence in their work with couples and relationships.

The Imago motto – “Healing in Relationships.”

This sincerely gratifying work will… 

  • Skyrocket your professional career to the next level. 
  • Build real-world progress and potentially offer more satisfied client referrals
  • Assist couples toward reconnection and revisioning their partnership using Imago Relationship Therapy tools.  
  • Teach transformative, and research-based methods for relational repair.
  • Allow for individual growth both personally and professionally

Are you the therapist who can help your couple re-pair and re-vision their partnership?

It starts with you – begin changing the world one relationship at a time.

Become an Imago Relationship Coach today.

With your joy, your heartbreak turned into healing and freedom with divine connection and the spark of true intimacy. Feeling heard, seen and profoundly important and special in your partnership.

You will practice with our experts in the field Nedra Fetterman, Gene Shelley, and Kobus van Der Merwe. Imago Therapists of the highest calibre with eons of clinical knowledge and experience. Indeed both Nedra and Kobus’s parents were influential Imago practitioners in their careers. Perfect timing for USA participants.

I’ll be there to act as a guide on your learning. I can’t wait to meet you. Please drop a comment below for any further information on this unmissable opportunity.

Here’s the Imago Official registration page, come join us for the fun and learning.

#Imago #Relationship #Therapy #Coaching
#Imago #Relationship #Therapy #Coaching

So Are You Getting the Love You Want?

Probably not. Harville Hendrix discovered the secret to what goes wrong in our partnerships and how to heal.

It’s not you or your partner. You and your mate are simply repeating patterns of pain that began way before you met.

No wonder you feel stuck.

Having the same fight repeatedly. Yearning to feel heard and seen and connected in your relationship at a heart-centered level. It’s often the same for your partner too.

So what’s really going on?

Imago tells you why you are trapped in negativity and how to find a way out. With hope, intimacy, and heartfelt connection.

Keen to know more?

Here’s a YouTube animation summarising Harville Hendrix and his wife Helen LaKelly-Hunt in their New York Times Bestseller Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples. Thanks to @Ragwise – Read And Grow Wise. There are subtitles as the narrator has a thick accent.

A six-minute introduction to Imago Relationship Therapy and how it can help you and your partner move beyond conflict and restore connection.

What is Tantra? Have You Used It in the Bedroom?

Many couples struggle with sexual desire discrepancy, no more so than after children. While it’s an exciting time and so wonderful to have wee people. It can cause a strain on your sexual relationship. Not to mention the stresses of work, in-laws, and all the other calls for our attention.

Tantra might be your answer. So what is Tantra?

When you mention Tantra, the first thing people say is sex, which is a touch reductionist.

Classical Tantra is the study of ancient Hindu and Buddhist texts with sacred religious rituals and practices designed for spiritual awakening and connection to divinity.

Tantra was brought to the West in the early 20th Century. Modern Tantra or Neo Tantra focuses on the body and sexual energy as an instrument for ecstasy. Most of us may have heard of the Kama Sutra.

When the producer reached out to me for Tod Sampson’s new season’s documentary Mirror, Mirror discussing Tantra I was intrigued, to say the least. Coincidentally I had just watched last year’s doco with my Dad as I was a featured expert on Social Media and its impacts series.

So there I was looking into the camera trying to keep a straight face discussing Tantra and Tantric sex as an Imago Relationship psychologist and coach. Hilarious, as Mel the producer the only other woman with around 7 guys in the studio.

I digress.

There’s a hot debate on the Westernised and monetized versions of Tantric Sex like Neo-Tantra. Tropical paradise beckons for a week of self-discovery at a price. Commercialization most definitely undermines the spiritual component of Tantra.

Yet revering and honoring our bodies as sacred intuitively feels appropriate and respectful.

Bet you didn’t know some of the Tantric Sex practices aren’t dissimilar to the techniques we coach couples within our clinic. Clothes on of course.

Here are some common features supported by the science we utilize in therapy.

Eye Gazing the Look of Love

In Imago Relationship Therapy we invite partners to turn their chairs towards each other. We may ask them to hold hands and they hold a soft gaze into each other’s eyes in silence.

In this space, barriers break down. Warmth and intimacy reignite.

Many couples giggle nervously as they cross the bridge into each other’s worlds sans words. Simple and yet powerful. Partners report how it’s been ages since they really looked at their partner. Not as a parent, or as a foe, but rather as a friend, their mate.

Naturally, they feel seen and acknowledged in this safe space. Without the danger of words and thoughts escalating into an argument.

30 years of research supports sustained eye contact in increasing intimacy, greater attraction, and trust building. This loving gaze stimulates our pair bonding hormones – oxytocin and phenylethylamine or PEA.


Next, we allow space to connect to our core selves using the breath with an inhale and long exhalation. Your Imago therapist coach will guide you to deepen and extend the out-breath simultaneously. Lengthening and synchronizing our breath and connection physiologically.

Again science assists our therapy knowledge and practice.

When we are fighting, we are in our Sympathetic Nervous System – which kicks in to deal with the perceived threat in our environment. If we were to view our brains in an fMRI we would see our threat detection areas like the amygdala are activated. Our brains see our partners as attacking so our body mobilizes for action – increased heart rate and blood pressure rises.

We are in fight or flight mode. Rational thought flies out the window.

Instead, we can down-regulate our body’s alarm system, safely and naturally with longer out breathing.

Here we are tapping into our Para-Sympathetic part of us – the rest and relaxation arm of our nervous system. Long Pranayama (Yogic) breathing has been shown in numerous studies to reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure, and increase immune system responsiveness. These are all factors associated with greater life expectancy.

In Imago we encourage intimacy and play. Intimacy, sex, and orgasm are great ways to reconnect in the privacy of your own home. Tantra suggests exploring you and your partner without the goal of orgasm. Instead relishing in the journey of touch and intimacy – tapping into your largest sex organ your brain.

I wonder if you can experiment with this breathing and soft gaze in your bedroom tonight. You might enjoy what Sex Therapist and Intimacy and Desire author David Schnarch calls – electric wall socket sex with an eyes-open orgasm. Inviting all your senses into your and your partners’ connection. Be brave, bold, and respectful.

I hope you found this article helpful.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Want to Learn Imago Couples Therapy Training ONLINE?

Super excited to share the wonder of Imago Relationship Therapy. This is for you if you are an individual therapist or a couples counselor wanting to add another field-proven couples therapy modality to your toolkit.

I am pleased to announce Module 1 Starts May 2nd. Please join us for two hours online weekly. NSW Australia time Tuesdays 9-11 am and USA Pacific time Monday 1, 6-8 pm. Brought to you by the Association of Imago Relationship Therapists Australia.

Are You Receiving the Love You Want?

Probably not. We yearn for a loving partner, one that offers security, connection, and unconditional love. And yet where are they? Our mate maybe less than ideal, having forgotten the romance that brought you two together.

Maybe you feel disconnected, alone even abandoned at times.

You are not alone.

Believe it or not, your partner may have similar feelings of discontent. So many couples we speak to come in disheartened. Unable to connect except in arguments and strife.

Stuck in these never-ending loops, hope fades. That’s no life. You want more.

We get it.

Chris my husband and I got to this very point in our marital relationship. Yep, Marriage counsellors and relationship therapists need help too.

We discovered Imago Relationship Therapy. Chris wasn’t the problem and neither was I. We were in this together.

We took the Getting the Love You Want Workshop. We trained and certified as Imago Relationship Therapists with New Zealand Imago Relationships Institute – Peter McMillan and Brenda Rawlings (RIP).

Learning how to connect, communicate, appreciate, and shift our reactive patterns was enlightening and empowering. Moving from complaint to compassion. Knowing it’s only our history playing out. Having the psychological and emotional space to talk, share, and repair.

Knowing there’s a way forward. Genuine healing, heartfelt connection.

This is what we bring to our relationship coaching.

Whether you are together, or on your own relational coaching is a game changer. As we learn about ourselves, we have the freedom to move out of negative beliefs and break out of the death spiral.

Are You Ready, Willing, and Wanting to Change Now? Sick and tired and can’t wait any longer? Please call us on 0434 559 011 on weekdays 9-5.

Here’s a YouTube preview video from America’s Imago Relationship Therapy’s founders – Helen LaKelly-Hunt and Harville Hendrix. As spouse’s they live and love the Imago way. With Imago dialogues, a relationship vision and warm connection in their marriage.

Imago Relationship Therapists and married couple. Harville and Helen.

NZ’ Jacinda Ardern Selects Family

I am not really political, but I have to give a shout-out to resigning NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Regardless political beliefs she stepped into a turbulent time. Dealing with WWW2-like conditions – Global pandemic, Terrorist Attack, White Island’s eruption. She gave birth while in office. Pretty special in my book. She appeared kind, gentle, staunch, wise, and determined. Amazing gravitas.

It’s now her time to enjoy her family.

Refusing to burn out, resigning on her terms.

I am guessing she is putting her energy into her relationships. Now that is a new role model. She has obviously listened to her needs and acted on them. What if you were to stand still, go inside, and listen for what comes? What would that voice be guiding you to do? Would it be more or less? Listen and see.

Go, Jacinda!

Woman wonder mother- Dame Valerie Adams -Sports legend

Oh, I was so inspired by Dame Valerie’s story and I am sure you will be too. Watching her life portrayed on the screen “More than Gold.” It really was.

I was in tears of connection at least four times. Poignant, powerful, and awesome. Her mother would be proud. Many of us who watch will resonate with her journey – loss, divorce, despair, devotion, mother guilt, birth, and trauma. Winning and losing. Performance pressure.

So let your heart be touched in this beautiful moving tale of 5 Olympic games and see a world-class athlete battle and become her personal best.

Dame Valerie Adams – loving mother, wife, friend and shotput legend of Aotearoa NZ.

Grateful for 2023 -Share it here …

Hello, lovely relationship wonders! Chris and I wish to welcome your entrance into 2023 with a special dialogue gift. The gratitude dialogue is a sheet of inspiration for you to share with your partner or friend, or yourself. Learn the art of couples’ communication. Offering joy and connection.

Turn your world around with Imago Relationship Free Gratitude sheet for 2023 Photo by Adam Winger on Unsplash
Turn your world around with the Imago Relationship Free Gratitude sheet for 2023 Photo by Adam Winger on Unsplash

Would you like to know what is my other therapy hat and see me in action?

Hi Relationship Repairers! I hope you are well.

I wanted to share what my husband and I teach – Resource Therapy to other mental health professionals, to give you the opportunity to see what else we do.

Here is a post from the Resource Therapy Institute Australia . Limited time as there are less than 24 hours to go for this special gift – Click here NLP PLaybook & Calendar for the NLP Masters Summit where you can see me speak.

Also last minute I know but the “Getting the love you want Workshop” is on this weekend if you are in near Crows Nest Sydney. For details click here to go to the official Imago Therapy Australia website.

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0434 559 011
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