Sunday, March 16, 2008

HBO In Treatment...The Rest of Week 7...Couples from Hell and Imago Relational Therapy

Amy uses their psychotherapy session to tell Jake she slept with her boss. Will these people just get divorced already?
Therapist Paul and his wife Kate have their own couples session with Gina. They are still dealing with Kate's infidelity, Paul still treats Gina (his therapist/supervisor) with scorn, and Kate talks about how Paul is out-of-touch with the lives of his children and how she's felt unable to be heard and unable to be a complete and fulfilled person because of her marriage to Paul. I'm not sure why. During the course of this session, they use a technique called "Imago." Gina and Paul both mock it, but Gina insists they start. "Please don't make us do this, Gina," Paul says, but because he doesn't want to, Kate insists, and Paul surprisingly plays along. It's a technique where one person talks and the other listens and reflects back without interpretation or added input. This is very hard for Paul, who can't help but add his own jabs. Kate says she thinks her affair came from something she's been harboring for many years. Paul reflects back that she thinks her affair came from something in her childhood. They both seem to get something out of the act, and Kate finally feels heard by her husband. One of the things she tells us in her own discussion is that while she was opposed to couples' therapy, she came in desperation because she couldn't get Paul to hear her at home, and with Gina she finally feels some sense of validation.

So while I'm tired of Jake and Amy, overall the series is getting interesting again. The session with Gina resonated a bit for me, I didn't have that "Give me a break!" feeling I usually get and Paul, while defensive and even on the edge of hostility at moments, his behavior is more contained, more real. My husband loves when he bickers with Gina. I find it unrealistic and disrespectful.

Okay, so I wondered about this Imago stuff. Sounds like something psychologists and social workers learn, not psychiatrist stuff. Thank you, Google, and in ClinkShrink's honor, Wikipedia.

At I found the Imago Relationships International website.
At Wikipedia, I first learned that Imago is a stage of insect development. Oops, wrong Imago. I tried Imago Therapy and learned that it was founded by Dr. Harville Hendrix, author of Getting the Love You Want, and he lives in New Jersey and New Mexico (two fine places) and Dr. Herdrix has 6 children and 3 grandchildren. About Imago therapy, Wikipedia says:

The core practice of Imago therapy is the "Couple's Dialogue," in which a couple engages in a structured conversation, with or without an Imago Therapist.
  • The Couple's Dialogue consists of Mirroring (repeating) each statement, Summarization, Validation ("That makes sense because ...") and Empathy ("I imagine that makes you feel ..."). This enables each partner to extend themselves to understand the experience of the other as different from their own. If you can work with an Imago therapist, he or she will help to deepen that dialog.
I'm having trouble with the formatting here, but the bottom line is that I learned something new today.


Anonymous said...

I never heard of Imago Therapy either and find it interesting. A couple with a GOOD relationship ought to already be doing that without the forced structure. Shouldn't we all in our relationships REALLY listen to what our partner or friend has to say, check periodically to make sure we've got it stright, and offer empathy? It sounds like good communication to me, but with a much more intense layer of repeating back what has been said. Perhaps it might help with some couples if communication really IS the issue.

In my couples counseling with my newly EX, I said "I feel that you are not interested in what I think and feel, nor in what I do." He DID hear me and when asked by the couples counselor to respond to me my Ex said (sincerely,with no hostility, and no idea of the effect or impact) "She's right...I am NOT interested in what she does, nor in what she thinks or feels". He followed by saying there are many more important and captivating things to be interested in. So communication ultimately can only take a relationship so far, and then it points to ending the relationship.

Anonymous said...

Well about Imago Relational Therapy,Dr.John Gottman's study in 1998 found that couples who stayed together almost never used this type of technique, which he described as unnatural. You can find the article on the New York Times website, use John Gottman for the search, scroll down to Scienc Watch:Men:Say "I do" 2-24-98

Anonymous said...

Ok. I'm a doctoral student in counseling psychology almost on internship. Imago therapy is definitely not something taught in credible programs. Truthfully, it sounds like Harville Hendrix has created a New Age version of object relations therapy.

Anonymous said...

its taught in marriage and family therapy master's program. very interesting theory