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Couple's Therapy

Couples therapy using the Imago method is what I have been doing for more than 25 years. Early in my career, I worked a lot with singles and couples. Although in my office a couple was able to better communicate during the session, understand the source of the problem, find the right ways to cope, strengthen natural resources, soothe anxieties, and find ways to help depressive states improve, I felt that something was missing in the recovery process. Many times, even though they left the sessions encouraged and with hope, when they returned to their natural environment, these feelings slowly dissipated. They weren’t equipped with specific tools to help them deal when a conflict started to develop.

When an individual client went back home, and a conflict started, he/she had to deal with lack of acceptance, with judgment and criticism, on the part of the spouse, with unpleasant experiences that rekindled despair and hopelessness. As time went on, I realized that a link was missing in the therapy process of the individual patients. I realized that the partner (if any) who isn’t involved in the therapeutic process, doesn’t have a clue of what hers/his partner is going through in therapy, and therefor he/she doesn’t make any changes in his/her behaviors that contribute to the difficult situations the couple is facing. I realized that the fact that I accept, understand, do not judge, and help my patients gain insights into their process, is not enough.

This is because I am not home with them to illuminate and explain to the spouse the process that their partner is going through with herself/himself, and with what is happening between them. I realized that the same acceptance, understanding, lack of judgment and insights, should also come from the spouse. Only when that happens, can the healing process begin, because then the relationship will not be a threat but a source of growth.

I got a positive reinforcement to my insights when I was exposed to the form of couple therapy called Imago, conceived by Dr. Harville Hendrix and his wife Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt. After my husband and I attended the Imago Workshop for Couples for a weekend, I was thrilled to find that I had found the way I wanted to work with a couple, a way that if both partners were willing to listen to and try, they would never be able to go back to their old patterns in their relationship.

I only work with couples, except in cases or situations where for the sake of the treatment I schedule one or two sessions with each of the partners privately. I strongly believe that a therapeutic process, when done in the presence of the partner, has the greatest chance of success. We are all creatures who look for connection. When we experience being heard and listened to, when we feel seen, when we experience our partner being there for us, accepting and respecting what and who we are, when our relationship with our partner is safe and satisfying, we recover, we grow and make changes. One of the principles that guides me in my work and that is very important to me, is to keep each spouse feeling understood and important to me, just like the other. I don’t see one as being right, and one who is wrong. I don’t look at one being injured and one who doesn’t. Both spouses come into the relationship with baggage that "froze in their freezer," and with defense mechanisms that they have developed throughout life that helped them cope and survive difficult times. They are unaware that here, in the relationship, they no longer need them. The behaviors that helped them survive are creating conflicts between them, and the dynamics often become a nightmare. Therefore, both spouses are equal in my eyes, and receive the same attitude from me: I accept, contain, understand, and respect both. I do not serve as a judge between them, I do not take sides or a position, I do not determine who is right, because both spouses are right. There are two truths here that each feels right to each spouse. There is no one truth that is better or more correct than the truth of the other.

 

In my work with couples, I see the relationship as the "patient", and throughout the therapeutic process we together examine and understand what each couple does or does not do for the good relationship they so desire. What is his/her contribution to the "nightmare" (if he/she feels that way), and what one can do to bring the relationship to where he/she wants it to be. We do all this without shame, blame, criticism, and  judgment. Eliminating these negative ways of communicating with each other, create safety in the space between them. In this environment, both spouses come out rewarded and get to feel seen, heard and understood by their spouses, as they have never felt before.

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