Imago Relationship Therapy and EMDR: Blending the two Approaches Provides Positive Results After working with couples and those struggling in their closest relationships for over fifteen years, I have found an effective blended treatment approach using Imago Relationship Therapy (IRT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). What is Imago Relationship Therapy? IRT is a highly effective method of couples therapy developed by Dr. Harville Hendrix which is outlined in detail in his book, "Getting the Love You Want."  It combines intensive childhood and self-awareness work with effective behavior techniques that couples can practice at home with each other.  Couples are guided by the therapist to consciously create a safe haven in which differences can be heard, and healing and empathy can occur. What kind of healing usually needs to occur in a couple's relationship? We all carry painful experiences with us (some have more serious unresolved trauma) from our childhood in to our marriages.  Unconsciously, we expect our partner to heal these hurts, or "finish up" the business of getting what we need to feel complete.  IRT teaches partners to calm defensive reactions and listen to the other by using a variety of methods including the Couples Intentional Dialogue.  Partners work together to unearth their most difficult childhood experiences and learn how they impact their current difficulties with each other.  The emphasis is to help them create a different emotional experience with each other where defensiveness and other negative behaviors are replaced with understanding, acceptance and caring behaviors.  It is truly a wonderful process to behold. Are there other methods of therapy that can help resolve past emotional injuries while working together as a couple? Yes, EMDR (and many other mind/body therapies) can provide rapid relief from emotional distress caused by unresolved past trauma.  In addition to treating PTSD symptoms resulting from a traumatic event, EMDR can be used to target defensive reactions triggered by a couple arguing about their "core issue" (i.e., money, in-laws, sex, control, abandonment, etc…).  When targeted effectively, EMDR can provide relief by reprocessing negative feelings or beliefs from the past that drive these painful interactions between couples.  It has been noted by some researchers (Protinsky, Sparks and Flemke, April, 2001)) that the use of EMDR during a couples session promotes empathy from the spouse who is witnessing their partner work through painful childhood experiences.  I have seen this happen in my marriage counseling practice in Rockville, Maryland, and it can be very powerful for both people.
EMDR and Imago Marriage Counseling
Suzanne Corcoran, LCSW-C, Counseling for Couples and Individuals in Rockville, Maryland