Elaine J. Horigian


(248) 644-7799

Therapy for Individuals and Couples

Imago Logo Imago Relationship Therapy


Couple on a Bench

Based on research in the fields of neuroscience, psychology, and human relationships, human beings, by nature, have a need for emotional contact and responsiveness with significant others.

This survival response starts in infancy and continues through life. Being connected, or attached, to another human being provides a sense of safety and security (and in our early years, actually helps the brain to develop). Imago Theory believes that the unmet needs and conflicts (disconnection) of childhood, as well as a variety of positive experiences with our early caregivers, have direct impact on our selection of a committed partner in adulthood.

Couple on a Bench


Harville Hendrix, PhD, and his wife, Helen LaKelly Hunt, PhD, incorporated these ideas in Imago Relationship Therapy. The word imago is derived from Latin, and means “image”. We form a composite of the positive and negative images of our early caretakers which we store primarily in the unconscious part of our brain. As adults, we let this same part of our brain guide us to look for someone who is our “imago match” for the purpose of healing and growing.


However, here’s where things become tricky and painful. Counter-intuitively, a good imago match means that we select, marry, or become committed to a partner who has the same wounding (types of disconnection) and unmet needs. But our partners usually have very different styles of defending themselves. And these differences, on the surface, make our partners seem totally incompatible. For example, when there is a an emotionally laden argument, one member of the couple may want to discuss immediately and get it resolved, while the other member gets silent and withdrawn in order to think.

Man On a Porch


In Imago Therapy, knowing the stages that a relationship goes through is part of learning, as knowing about how the mind and the brain are involved. In the early part of relationships, romantic love draws us together and is nature’s way of connecting us with “the perfect partner” for our healing. This is called the “romantic phase”.


As we become closer and more committed, we move out of the romantic phase and into a phase of power struggles, which is a necessary phase. Embedded in a couple’s frustration, lies the information for healing and growth. Thus, Imago views conflict as growth trying to happen.


The power struggle is inevitable. It is, however, a stage. It can start anywhere from two months to two years into the relationship. If left unattended, it can last for years. This is often the time of heated arguments, icy silences, a lot of discord, and it can really hurt. Partners feel very disconnected from each other and are often very scared. It is here where many couples choose to end the relationship.


Couple Readinge

The goal of Imago Therapy is to restore and maintain conscious, committed connection. Imago Therapy emphasizes understanding our impact on the relationship; it encourages people not to shame or blame the other person.

Through a process known as conscious dialogue, people can learn to restore connection. Conscious dialogue allows the participants to truly hear, understand, and connect with each other. They learn to make unconscious patterns conscious, and therefore empower themselves with awareness necessary to make long-lasting, fulfilling relationship.


Couple Reading
Imago Therapy is not just for couples; it also is applicable to individuals. As an Imago Therapist, I help individuals and couples to
  •   understand how the mind and brain work in relationship,
  •   develop communication skills that will impart safety, connection, and well-being,
  •   establish and/or deepen trust,
  •   add excitement to and deepen true intimacy,
  •   learn skills for maintaining relational and brain health.
Elderly Couple


I have been a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist for more than a 20 years, and I apply this approach in many ways. I use it with pre-marital couples, couples who are married or living together in committed relationship, and I also use it with couples who wish to renew and restore their relationship. As your Imago therapist, I hope to provide you with a map that can help you move beyond the Power Struggle. I will encourage you to grow within yourself and stop using defensive, hurtful behavior. This personal growth in each of you will lower the defensiveness and, in turn, will restore safety and close connection, which can lead to greater intimacy and a relationship wherein you can be yourself and and can enable you to build the relationship "of your dreams".


Neuro-scientific approach indicates that talk therapy alone is not as effective as it when it is combined with energy psychology *, such as Clinical Hypnosis, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Tapping (EFT - Emotional Freedom Technique), and Mindfulness Meditation. I have been trained in and use clinical hypnosis as a powerful intervention that successfully addresses such issues as anxiety (stress), panic disorders, reactivity (having difficulty regulating your emotions and feeling of out of control), weight management, smoking cessation, and a number of other issues. Additionally, I am trained in EMDR (Level I and Level II) and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), as well as Mindfulness interventions.



I intersperse these types of interventions throughout the sessions and select the appropriate type(s) that can add relief and make your therapeutic experience more effective and that may also shorten the length of time you need to spend in therapy.

It is my belief that learning those tools will help you for the rest of your life. They are portable and do not require going to the pharmacy. As I have stated above, I believe it is my job to help you become a therapist for yourself. These interventions can have significant and positive impact which will increase your sense of well-being, increase your confidence level, and will enable your mind to take a pause in a way that promotes brain health.


Perhaps some of you might want to know what Clinical Hypnosis is. All Clinical Hypnosis is self-hypnosis. Hypnosis is focused attention, and it requires you to “go inside” and quiet yourself. You are completely in charge of how deep you go, and I want to reassure you that because you have a human mind and brain, you will only go to a level of deepening that your mind, brain, and psyche can handle. It is as if you have an “inner advisor” who is ever present and ever protective of you. Therefore, clinical hypnosis is not “stage” hypnosis, where the hypnotist is really in charge and can invite a person to “cluck like a chicken”. It is important to understand that the people who volunteer for stage hypnosis are generally prepared in advance (they don’t show you this part), and/or like to be the center of attention. In Clinical Hypnosis, you are in charge, as noted above, and you and I always discuss what your issues are and what type of hypnotic therapy is best for you.


I want you to understand that practice is essential for learning and using any of the above techniques. While they can provide a relief fairly quickly, if you choose to use hypnosis and other energy interventions only in my office, you will make very little progress.


I usually ask you to bring your cell phone into to the office so that we can make a recording of either the hypnotic script or Mindfulness Meditation, or Tapping. If you do not have a cell phone, other arrangements will be made. I found these types of interventions to be very useful in obtaining a healthy balance in your mind, brain, and body. Most people find these techniques to be pleasant and soothing.

* What Is Energy Psychology?

David Feinstein, a clinical psychologist and a major proponent of energy psychology, describes the approach as “acupuncture without needles”. Although there are many variations of energy psychology, the most well-known and commonly practiced treatments utilize techniques from acupuncture and acupressure, such as Body Tapping. Body Tapping involves stimulation of points on the body also targeted in acupuncture known as meridian points. The process is intended to send signals to the brain to help regulate the emotions associated with mental health.

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