When couples call for an appointment, it is usually because of pain, rupture or despair in their relationship. Imago Therapists, are uniquely trained to help couples begin to sort through their issues in a way that is powerfully different from other forms of therapy. When couples enter into the couple’s dialogue, they are beginning to connect in a way that promotes differentiation as well as connection. The connection aspect of the dialogue reaches to the deepest core of attachment and provides an opportunity for couples to re-create a basis to change their neurobiology and to transform their right brain into a milieu that is less reactive. Allan Schore in his book The Science of the Art of Psychotherapy (2012) summarizes and expands his hypothesis and research that underscores the fact that emotion is regulated initially by others and that it becomes more self regulated as a result of neurophysiological development. He documents that “homeostatic regulation between members of a dyad is a stable aspect of all intimate relationships throughout life.”
Shore identifies that attunement, misattunement and reattunement as on-going in the mother-child dyad and we can extrapolate the same phenomenon to adult love relationships. It is couples who are stuck in the misattunement who often come for help.
In the dialogue, mirroring is central to the couple moving toward reconnection and reattunement. Sometimes couples resist because they feel the process is artificial or mechanical. According to Shore, the phenomenon of mirroring is multi-dimensional and in order for it to be experienced as meaningful it needs to include visual, verbal tonality, breathing, as well as body language. Underscoring the importance of the dialogue for couples Shore states, “psychotherapy is not the “talking cure”, but the “communication cure” According to Shore, “nonverbal affective and thereby mind-body communications are expressions of the right brain which allows the patient to become more conscious of communication from their own body.” We must be cognizant of the body experience as part of effective mirroring.
What are the implications for us as clinicians on the front line? Firstly, that we have been trained to help couples reattach with a profound skill—the dialogical process. For Imago Therapists, the dialogue’s goal is to promote safety and connections. Shore’s work provides scientific evidence of the importance of attachment in helping right brain function to promote safety on neuropsychological levels as well as conscious levels. We need to be cognizant that for mirroring to be most effective, we need to coach the receiver to be attuned to the sender beyond just tracking the words and to make attuned eye contact with the sender as well as to use voice tonality that resonates with the interior world the sender is communicating. The melding of these vectors not only creates a foundation of safety and a secure base for the couple to reconnect but also it is “the matrix for helping create a right brain self that can regulate its own internal state and external relationships.” It is a bio-psycho-social-cultural perspective that deepens mirroring to resonate with the earliest and most profound aspects of attachment.