Historically, couples therapy has always been used as a last resort before the ending of a relationship. After interviewing a dozen Marriage & Family Therapists, their feedback is clear “It is never too early to start couples therapy. Most couples wait too long and come in after a major rupture in the relationship.” Attending couples therapy earlier in the relationship vs in crisis mode is the difference between still keeping on your rose-colored glasses that maintain respect and trust, versus wearing the red-colored glasses that lead to a cognitive bias towards a dynamic with your partner that includes blame, criticism, comparison, and anger. Once you swap over to the red-colored glasses, the perception ruptures the dynamic and safety of the relationship and makes it harder for you to retreat and rebuild. AKA, the war has broken out. But, rebuilding is still possible, as long as you have friendship, intimacy, and commitment towards the relationship. 


IMAGO views the relationship as a separate entity, outside of the couple. The relationship, as its own entity, naturally, would then have its own set of needs and desires outside of the individuals involved. 

The term imago is from the latin word for “image” and refers to what its founders describe as an “unconscious image of familiar love”.  Much of the work in the IMAGO process includes learning how to recognize early childhood relationship experiences and how they have affected your ability to relate, behave, and respond to the world. The IMAGO founders also created the process of the IMAGO dialogue that, through the help of an IMAGO therapist or coach, can allow partners to step into each other’s shoes and experience their emotions, perceptions, and vulnerabilities without judgment, to build deeper empathy. 

Developed in the 1980s by Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt, IMAGO relationship therapy is a form of couples counseling and coaching. Its theory is based on healing childhood wounds through modern-day dialogue. The founders of IMAGO believe that the feelings you experience in your childhood relationships through your parents will resurface in your adult intimate relationships, and we are more likely to pick a partner who represents either the positive or negative traits of our parents, calling it an IMAGO match. 

An IMAGO match means we are picking a partner who embodies all of our lost parts that did not get to develop due to shame, rebellion, or other setbacks in our childhood. We are also picking a partner that feels familiar by exhibiting similar traits our parents have (either positive or negative) that we experienced in our childhood. Since our first memory and experience with love stems back to the relationship we have with our parents, it’s a no-brainer that this would hold true. 


Newlyweds, long-term couples, and couples dealing with communication struggles, conflict management, intimacy challenges, and trust issues would benefit well from working with an IMAGO-trained practitioner. However, IMAGO therapy may not be the best approach for partners who are experiencing domestic abuse, or dealing with substance abuse or addiction. 


The IMAGO dialogue is a process where couples sit across from each other, with their knees touching, and stare into the eyes of each other, with a hand on each other’s knees. As one partner talks, the other listens and then mirrors back to them what they heard, without judgment. This process allows for both partners to experience each other’s reality and learn how to best show up to support each other. The IMAGO dialogue is made up of 3 main components: mirroring, validating, and empathizing. 


  • What I heard you say was….
  • That makes sense.
  • I imagine you feel….. Am I right?
  • Thank you for sharing that with me.

IMAGO teaches couples how to feel, communicate, and co-create an aligned shared vision for a successful relationship. As an IMAGO Coach, I act as a cheerleader, accountability partner, and visionary with my clients to help them grow and stretch into what the relationship needs at that moment. 

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s bring back some new relationship energy to your dynamic by working with me on your future

Written by: Alysha Malik, Modern Dating & Relationship Coach, Founder of Rythm.