The Paradigm Shift of Imago Relationship Therapy is a critical determinate differentiating Imago from other schools of Relationship Therapy. It shifts the energy of the clinical interventions from the perspective of the individual to the co-creation of the space in between the partners. Thus, the relationship becomes primary, calling each partner to intentionality and shifting them away from their own sense of self to the expanse of the relationship. In short, Imago is a Relational Paradigm and the individual is a variable.

Focusing on the energy in the space in between and how to cultivate safety promoting connectivity based on validation and empathy is a profound shift asking the therapist not to be the judge or the referee stuck in the content or communication style. Instead, it stipulates that the therapist become a facilitator to help each partner cooperate in holding the others’ reality and making sense of their partners’ reality from their partners’ point of view. This minimizes reactivity and moves neuro-energy to the higher functions of the brain. It deepens the communication and transforms it from reactivity to vulnerable and authentic communication.

Historically, beginning with the Freudian movement the focus was on intra-psychic constructs and dynamics. The next wave of thinking was more about interpersonal constructs typified by Neo-Freudians such as Adler, Sullivan and Horney . This work was further developed by object relationship and attachment theory. However, Imago shifts the focus to the relationship as the foundation of where healing, growth and expansion of the self can occur.

Moving away from the self and ego shifts the focus to the connection that occurs in the adult love relationship. The underlying postulates of Imago Relationship Therapy pivot on the assumption that the purpose of adult love relationships is to provide an opportunity to repair the wounds and ruptures mitigated by a character structure based on defensive adaptations to a sense of a self integrated in attunement and validation. Thus, a sense of aliveness flowing from a balanced sense of pulsation is co-created for each partner.

Imago Relationship Therapy invites couples to stay in connection through safety that is tethered by the Couples Dialogue shifting the energy to the space in between which is a co-creation of each partner. It asks each partner to become more intentional about how they send to and receive communication from each other. This summons the couple toward intentionality, and consciousness by reflecting on and being aware of how they contribute to the space in between. Underscoring, that what is contributed to the space in between strongly influences the tonality, intimacy and energy of the relationship. The Couples Dialogue is paramount to intentionality which is a major touchstone on the journey to a conscious relationship.

The sacred space in between is where couples can share, process and connect. It is the essence of the relationship. Asking partners to shift the locus of control of the relationship to this space rather than their individual frames of reference is the fundamental shift allowing them to cooperate with each other’s unconscious agenda of healing childhood wounds and reclaiming and expanding their original essence confluently, rather than out of reactivity and adaptions to rupture and pain.

For more information contact Dr. Tannenbaum;


Relationship Realities: The safety and the challenge of adult love relationships! by Herb Tannenbaum, Ph.D.

Our romantic relationship are driven by many factors. Two of the most important dynamics that couples need to understand and appreciate are the need for safety and the need to grow and expand consciousness.

Imago Relationship Therapy was developed by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D and Helen LaKelly-Hunt. The underpinnings of Imago Relationship Therapy are expanded in the best selling book Getting The Love You Want by Hendrix and Hunt.

Imago theory postulates that the purpose of adult love relationships is to heal childhood wounds so that the psyche can utilize energy to expand consciousness and achieve a sense of full aliveness. So, what is needed for this to happen? Our adult love relationships need to have an aspect of security. A secure attachment includes a sense of reliability and warmth. Development psychologist have researched and documented the importance of secure attachment to an infant and child’s development and that need is timeless.

Romantic Love facilitates a sense of attachment as couples bond and experience a sense of timelessness, recognition and familiarity in their partner. What is really happening? The unconscious is sensing a recognition of the person with whom we are falling in love. The psyche is timeless and as it senses the familiarity of the character traits of our partners romantic love blinds us. It allows us to only see the positives in our partner and blinds us of seeing the character traits which we may find disturbing or rewounding.

The paradox is that the psyche is much more interested in the rewounding that we will inevitable experience. Not because we want to be rewounded, but because we are in a relationship of our choosing we can choose to learn more about our partners and them to learn more about us and our wounds and what we need for healing. When we receive the healing the behaviors we need from our partner the psyche because it is timeless does not discriminate the past from the present. It only knows that it is being healed and that is what it yearns for. It makes us very special to our partners and a unique source of safety

Thus, the challenge we all need to accept as partners is that in order to cooperate and help our partners heal, we will need to understand our partners needs and be willing to stretch are behavior repertoire to incorporate behaviors that will help our partner heal and feel safe.  The truth is, we can only feel as safe in a relationship as we make our partner feel. There is no negotiation on that.

We are challenged by our mission, yet it is this challenge that really makes our adult love relationships so special because in stretching to heal our partners and them us each partner reclaims lost, denied or disowned parts of themselves and regain the energy that has been used to repress or deny these aspects of our being.

This is a big deal! It helps provide a better understanding of the purpose and dynamics of adult love relationships and gives a road map for couples to cooperate with their partners’ and their own unconscious to help created the relationship of their dreams and move beyond the inertia and despair of the power struggle.


Herb Tannenbaum, Ph.D. is a certified Imago Therapist and a member of the faculty of the Institute for Imago Relationship Therapy. He can be contacted at






Be Curious about Your Partners’ World by Herb Tannenbaum, Ph.D.

Imago Relationship Therapy founded developed by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. and Helen LaKelly-Hunt, Ph.D. identifies and underscores the importance that partners in an adult love relationship begin to differentiate and accept and become curious about their partners world. In other words, partners are often reactive, judgmental, frightened or confused when there partner does not see the world the way they do. This is often the etiology and fuel of the power struggle that so many couples get caught up in.

Rather than being reactive, Imago Relationship Therapy asks that partners transcend their reality and become curious about what their partner is thinking or feeling and to contain reactivity so that the sending partner can share their world without being questioned or judged–this is powerful! Using the Couples Dialogue which is a core skill of Imago Relationship Therapy each partner gets mirrored, validated and empathized with for their point of view. The receiving partner stays focused and attuned tracking their partner and learning more about their thinking and subjective reality.

The core of the the couples dialogue is based on Phenomenology which was developed by the Dutch philosopher Edmund Husserl. Husserl identified the concept of subjective reality and that each of us view the world through on own lens which is based on our internal world. This was profound thinking. It emphasized consciousness and underscored that empirical facts are not enough to understand the human condition.

For couples, the concept of being curious about each others world opens a pathway to intimacy through connectivity and safety. In my office, the number one yearning that partners have from their partner is to be heard and understood. The Couples Dialogue provides the structure for couples to be in connection in an intentional way and allows them to be curious about their partners world knowing that listening to their partner is a gift for the relationship that allows a deeper level of authentic connection.

Herb Tannenbaum, Ph.D. – contact me @


Relationship Realities by Herb Tannenbaum, Ph.D.

Psychologists understand the importance of attachment as a pivotal aspect of child development and a universal need throughout life. Imago Relationship Therapy founded and developed by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. postulates that we are born in relationship, wounded in relationship and the venue in which we can be healed is in relationship. 

The fact that adult love relationships are so powerful in stirring up both positive and negative relationships underscores that there is no more powerful transference triggers than our partners. Why is this? Imago Relationship Therapy states that our psyche’s yearn for healing and wholeness and the unconscious has the wisdom to choose a partner who has the composite of the positive and negative traits of our primary care takers. In romantic love, we are attracted and excited about the positive traits we see in our romantic partner that remind us of things that we liked or promoted feelings of safety and aliveness. According, to Imago, romantic love is nature’s anesthesia to allow us to connect to a person with whom we will re-experience the frustrations, hurts and disappointment of our relationships with our primary caretakers. The purpose of re-experiencing these archaic hurts is not to be re-wounded but for repair. In Imago Relationship Therapy, once a couple commit to creating safety , they are provided with tools to navigate the core scenes that the trigger the pain in ways the promote safety and healing.

Imago Relationship Therapy helps couples to navigate the journey from romantic love, and the power struggle and reach a third level of relationship – THE CONSCIOUS RELATIONSHIP!

In a conscious relationship partners accept the challenges and difficulties of relationship and begin to use tools that help promote safety, attuned connection and repair. The repair allows partners to heal and re-claim lost and denied parts of themselves leading to an experience of fuller aliveness in the journey of life.

by: Herb Tannenbaum, Ph.D. for more information go to or follow me on twitter herbtannenbaumphd.










My work as an Imago Relationship Therapist underscores that one of the challenges that couples face as they move from the romantic love into the power struggle and continue on the journey to a conscious relationship is to be able to reframe tensions and what are perceived as disagreements as opportunities for growth.

Neuropsychological research underscored that being able to think positively allows people to use the resource of the neo-cortex as compared to thinking of situations as “problems” or “challenges” invites more of the old brain structures of the brain to be leading the way. The “old brain” is much more susceptible to reactivity and thus folks can go into “fight or flight” type responses.

Being able to shift to seeing any situation as something that can have a solution harnesses an expansive way of thinking. For couples this is particularly important as they move toward consciousness. Consciousness calls the couple to stay in connection and to learn to navigate moving from emotional symbiosis to differentiation which means accepting that their partner is different and the tension of the difference in the relationship is an opportunity go grow and expand one’s sense of self and access to core energy. 

One of the key experiences that people report about the mulfliouness of romantic love is that there is a feeling of being so alive.  That feeling of aliveness is about core energy. Chanigning the paradigm form “problems’ to “solutions” is about accessing core energy for growth and expansion and allows people to feel more alive. In an adult love relationship the shift from “problems” to “solutions” as a way of connecting and interacting allows the relationship to become a soure and resource for more of a sense of aliveness. 

Given our desire to feel fully alive the paradigm shift of seeing opportunites in everything we do as a way of creating solutions–particularly solutions that promote safety and growth — is a critical path for couples to embrace and integrate into thier relatinship.

For more infomation visit my web site or vist me Facebook Page: herb tannenbaum phd.








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.


Adult Love Relationships require that partners learn about the interior of each others psyche and what is needed for safety by each of them. Neuroscientist have shown that safety impacts brain chemistry and allows people to use the neo cortex part of their brain to guide their behavior rather than having the relationship driven by the “old brain” and reactivity.

Couples need to be conscious that their safety is contingent on how safe they make their partner feel! This is a profound paradox that needs to be reflected upon. We can only feel as safe as we make our partner feels means that we our being called into differentiation and consciousness by our relationship. We need to learn about the needs and vulnerabilities of our partner and behave in ways that honor our partner’s needs so that they can feel safe.

This paradigm shifts that calls us to be aware of and honor our partner is transformational for people to understand that they live someone who is different than they are and who has different needs in order to feel safe. This is powerful! It means that by knowing more about our partner and honoring their needs, we will feel safer. That is because by allowing our partner to feel safer they can be more intentional and open to our world.

Imago Relationship Therapy developed by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. and Hunt, Ph.D. stresses the importance of differentiation as a key component to developing a conscious relationship. Intentionality about our partners needs and psyche injuries are pivotal in allowing partners to create safety and therefore enjoy the benefits of a conscious relationship.

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