A: Imago relationship therapy is based on the work of Harville Hendrix in his books Getting the Love You Want and Keeping the Love You Find. It is based on the theory that individuals consciously pick partners based on their attraction, likes, shared values, etc. and that, more importantly, one unconsciously picks a mate based on one’s unhealed childhood wounding. In other words, one picks a partner that brings up their deepest hurts and then gets angry with their partner. Imago is based upon a series of dialogues that help couples honestly connect with their partners and live in a more conscious relationship with their partners and the world around them. Craig Lambert is proud to offer Imago therapy as part of his practice as a San Diego marriage counselor and couples counselor.
A: Imago is a time-limited approach to counseling which lasts 10-12 sessions. The therapist is mostly a facilitator of the dialogue between the partners, thus focusing more on process than content. The therapist’s role is not to point out who is right and who is wrong, but more to help the partners hear each other’s hurts, hopes, needs and desires.
A: In Imago the view is that it is common for one partner to be more willing to come to therapy than the other. This is known as the “dragger and draggee” phenomenon. One partner is seen as being the voice for the couple and as long as both are willing to attend, the process will be convincing in and of itself.
A: Imago therapy does not discriminate against any type of couple. The only requirements are a committed partnership and a willingness to attend. Craig is a San Diego relationship therapist, helping married couples, newlyweds, couples and engaged couples.
A: As in most couples therapy, if one or both partners are in an active addiction, current affair, or if one or both have an untreated mental illness, the couple would not be good candidates for the therapy or the workshops until the issues are addressed.
A: One can work on their individual relationship issues in individual Imago therapy. While the couples workshops are reserved for couples, there are singles’ Imago workshops in various locations entitled, “Keeping the Love you Find.”
A: Imago is a spiritual model in that it views coupleship as a spiritual journey and growth path. It does not advocate any specific religious perspective.
COUPLES COUNSELING Q&A
A: The short answer is as soon as it is first considered. It is well known that couples generally put off going in to see someone when they begin feeling distressed. As a relationship counselor and San Diego therapist, I have discovered couples tend to wait six or more years before they seek help. By then more hurt feelings and misunderstandings have occurred and interactive patterns set. The sooner the couple comes in, the better. This is an investment in the health of your relationship, yourselves, and your children.
A: It varies from couple to couple. Some may benefit with a few sessions with a San Diego marriage therapist. These are usually the people who have a healthy foundation in their relationship and know they are committed to each other for life. Others take longer because the disconnection between them is more pronounced. Healing these relationships does take time and conscientiousness on the part of each partner for the most growth to occur. It has usually taken years to get to this point, so the healing may also take time.
A: Initially, weekly sessions between 1 to 1 ½ hours make the most sense to get momentum going and also some skills to practice at home. Most of the work occurs outside the sessions at home between the couple, so the more practice couples get, the less often sessions are required. Sessions are meant to teach new skills, to create a safe climate where each person’s story can be revealed to increase understanding of the partner and self, and to experience connection.
A: Many people come to the first session and state they are not sure about the future but are certain that they cannot continue with the communication patterns they have in place now. Often these same people will be able to recommit when they are able to experience a different, safe, and compassionate interaction pattern with their partner. Tragically, sometimes that is not possible so the sessions provide a place to examine this and to gain more insight to make decisions that are not reactive or premature.
A: The real truth is that it takes two people committed to the relationship to make it work. One person cannot do the work of two. Both people need to be committed to the process of improving the relationship for improvements to happen.
A: It is recommended that you “interview” therapists by phone to find out if they have specific training in doing couples’ work and, if so, what that is. This includes asking approximately how many couples the therapist has seen over how many years, what is their approach and structure of the session, and what they expect from the couple in the sessions and outside the session. Also ask them any specific questions you may have. This is an important decision.
A: Generally, private insurance does not cover couples counseling, as most insurance companies do not view marriage/couples counseling as “medically necessary.” However, occasionally one or both partners may have a pre-existing diagnosis (major depression, addictions, bi-polar, ADD, etc.) that has had an impact on the relationship. Insurance companies most often will reimburse these sessions due to medical necessity, if the treatment plans developed to address the pre-existing diagnosis supports conjoint couples sessions as part of the treatment. Additionally, Craig Lambert, LCSW, is a recognized Medicare provider, and marriage counseling is a covered by Medicare.
A: I operate on a slide scale. If you can’t afford treatment, let me know and we can work something out. But do not let this keep you from getting at least some sessions to gain working knowledge and skills to begin to grow your relationship.
A: Yes, if both people are motivated and committed to making a different relational pattern. It takes a willingness to look at oneself and accept what contributions to the disconnect each is making. If a person’s intention is to connect and grow the relationship, we need to make sure our actions/behaviors follow our intentions. Often our reactivity is based in defensiveness that may have the unintended consequence of wounding our partner and causing misunderstanding. We invite you to investigate couples counseling further.
COUPLES WORKSHOPS Q&A
A: The unique design of these workshops can be transformative for couples wishing to invest in their present and future relationship, whether just beginning, becoming routine, or struggling.
A: There is a mix of activities during the workshop, all building on one another. We will have short lectures, film clips, time for reflection and personal writing exercises in your manual, group discussions of important points, high activity fun, and private time to practice new skills with your partner.
A: That is fine. No one is required to share in the group discussions, and those who do are not expected to share personal information of any kind. The discussions often are cited as being one of the more helpful aspects of the weekend. Participants say they learn a lot when other participants share, but each person can participate in them as much or as little as they desire.
We consciously try to create a climate of safety for participants and we trust that each person knows how to get what is most relevant for themselves over the course of the workshop. Privacy is very much respected.
A: No. The workshops are considered educational with the goal that participants will leave knowing more about themselves, the relationship journey, and their partners than they did at the beginning of the workshop. Our hope is that participants also will take away useful skills and tools to continue deepening their relationship with their partners.
A: Yes, it is important for the couples to be there the complete time. The workshop structure builds on information and exercises, so if any is missed, the couple will not get the full benefit of the workshop. To receive the full benefit, participants should be there from the very beginning until closing. By doing so, a commitment is made to the health and growth of your relationship.
A: We look at the normal stages of relationship development, what we bring to the relationship, our reactivity styles that can impede successful communication, how to nourish the relationship, how to ask for what we need, and how to resolve frustrations. We create a relationship vision to take away from the workshop, and we also pay attention to those areas we appreciate in our partners. We spend a lot of time on new proven and effective communication.
A: We are delighted to offer Imago workshops in San Diego. Most of the workshop is based on the work of Dr. Harville Hendrix, who wrote the internationally renowned book, Getting the Love You Want. This way of looking at intimate, committed love relationships is based on the premise that as adults, we seek relationships which are familiar to us from our childhood experiences. This includes both the positive experience of how we felt loved and the negative experiences of how we were hurt or felt vulnerable. We fall in love with someone who has a significant number of the positive and negative characteristics of all of our caretakers. However, during the time of falling in love we mainly experience those positive qualities and only later realize they possess some of the negative qualities that might have repelled us.
A: Reading the book beforehand is not required but might be useful to familiarize yourself with the concepts outlined in the book. We cover the concepts and exercises in the book as well as additional research and concepts gained since Getting the Love You Want was published.
A: Any couple who is in a committed relationship can benefit from this San Diego workshop for couples. Participants in the workshop are at various stages in their relationships. Some are preparing for marriage, some have been in their relationship for many years, dealing with estrangement, empty nest, or wanting to re-energize their relationship. Some couples are on the brink of divorce. Some are dealing with not having enough time for the relationship while raising a family. What we find is that we all struggle with similar issues of disruption of contact with our partner and yearn for the connection or re-connection that allows love and passion to grow in our relationships.