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Dear Harville and Helen, it is a great happiness to have your book Doing Imago Relationship Therapy translated into Romanian. First of all, I would like to thank you for writing this book (which for me has become the bible of relationship therapy). In addition, I want to commend you for your approach and beautiful writing, and also for the intricacy of the art and science behind the Imago relationship therapy. I can hardly wait to interview you and receive your amazing answers. 

Gáspár: Currently, there are several well-known paradigms of couple’s therapy. For me, Imago relationship therapy comprises the most complex and profound concept. What would you tell a psychotherapist who is new to the field about the typical traits of Imago therapy? What are the unique features of Imago relationship therapy?

Harville and Helen: We say that the unique and core features of IRT are simplicity and structure. It is simple because it has a clear theory of human suffering as ruptured connection and a clear theory of the outcome of therapy as restored connecting. It is structured because it uses one intervention called Imago Dialogue as the primary intervention. The structure of Imago Dialogue is a sequential three step process through which couples are guided by the use of explicit and sequential sentence stems. Another way to say it: Imago Therapy is a skill-based therapy that helps people learn the dialogue process and use it to create safety, which is the precondition of connecting. 

Gáspár: I highly recommend your latest book, Doing Imago Relationship Therapy, to all those interested in acquiring more information. Speaking of the book, the introductory chapter about quantum physics was really useful, although I must admit that I did not fully comprehend it before reading the chapter „The Space-Between“. Imago as an intellectual system grounded in quantum cosmology is a product of the XXI century. How easy or how difficult was it to incorporate the quantum physics principles in the relational paradigm of Imago theory?

Harville and Helen: Good question. Given that we needed 10 years to write the book, the intellectual process was different. For many years we had developed the „relational paradigm“ which replaced the „individual paradigm“. The individual paradigm was grounded in classical physics which theorized that everything was made of individual and separate atoms. The atom was the model and ground of the „self“. For a long time, we could not find a scientific ground for the relational paradigm until we looked at quantum field theory. Quantum field theory sees all atoms, particles, galaxies, and people, as interconnecting all the time in a great tapestry of being. That became the new scientific ground for looking at human beings, their problem as disconnection and their healing as restoring awareness and the experience of connecting. 

Gáspár: Since reading the English version of the book, I began using the concept of „Relationology“ – I adore the sound of it and I think that everybody should learn it. What is this new scientific approach about and what are its characteristic features?

Harville and Helen: We have many disciplines that include sociology, psychology, philosophy, each of which has a focus: social groups, the self, and human thought. Research and theory on „relationship“ has no discipline or container to hold it. We propose Relationology as the term that designate and systematically organizes the emergence of the new field of the relational sciences. Our hope is that this may constitute new departments in universities as humanity comes to understand that „relationship“ is fundamental reality and all other „things“ are derivatives. 

Gáspár: Talking with colleagues from the Imago international community, we all agreed that an Imago clinical guide was much needed. How was for you the process of writing this book and how long did it take to put together all the scientific and the practical information?  

Harville and Helen: As we said before, the process was very challenging and took 10 years. We were not only engaged in writing a clinical guide for IRT; we were shifting the very foundation of therapy from the foundational reality of the „individual“  rooted in classical physics to „relationship“ as foundational reality and grounding it in quantum physics. And then translating all that into clinical theory and therapy procedures. Fortunately, as you may have observed, most concepts and processes, that constituted the Imago concepts with which Imago therapists were familiar, were already expressions of the relational paradigm and thus organically rooted in the interconnecting quantum field. 

Gáspár: I confess that I am one of the therapists that do not rely too much on a certain diagnosis and I was glad to read that you don’t recommend using  DSM-5 either. What is your point of view about the 345 mental disorders comprised in DSM? Furthermore, how did the scientific community react to your opinion? 

Harville and Helen: We see the proliferation of diagnoses in DSM-5, and all its precedents and successors, as indicators of the individual paradigm that places the problem „inside“ persons. We also see the number of disorders and therapies as an indicator that this paradigm is now obsolete. 

As you know, we operate from a relational paradigm rooted in an interconnecting field called the quantum field. In this theory, primary reality is „connecting“ and all suffering is the rupture of the experience of connecting. That produces anxiety, and all the symptoms in the DSM. Thus there is only one diagnosis and one cure=anxiety caused by ruptured connecting and restored experience of connecting achieved by the Imago Dialogue process, the structure of which creates the safety that is a precondition of experiencing connecting. 


So far we have had no reactions from the scientific community except that the most visible ones in the fields of therapy and couples therapy endorsed the book. 

Gáspár: As therapist, I believe in science, but also in „practice-based therapy“. In Romania, as well as in other countries, there are researchers, mostly laboratory professionals, which assert that there is only one true psychology, namely the one proven by clinical studies. My opinion is that the complexity of  human nature and relationship goes beyond the boundaries of limited laboratory methods – with all the consideration to the work of my colleagues. How to you relate to this opinion? How much of the Imago relationship therapy is based on laboratory studies, and how much on clinical therapy (yours and other Imago therapists’) with thousands of couples?

Harville and Helen: None of the evolution of Imago Relationship Therapy is based on laboratory studies. Every theory and therapy practice we developed was from experimentation and reflection until a process worked most of the time, with all couples.What evolved was the singular impact of Dialogue which transformed it from a communication device to a transformative process. We also certainly support laboratory methods, although they can be more contrived than organic. We prefer to test a proven clinical process in the lab after it has been clinically effective to discover its causes and perhaps tweak it and then reinsert it into the clinic. Setting something up in the lab seems to discover what will work in the clinic seems not to be the path of true discovery. You may recall that Einstein said that his discovery of the curvature of space, that replaced Newtonian space, came from a vision he had of a child sliding down a curved rainbow. After 9 years of mathematical calculation, he derived the physics of his vision and developed a new theory of gravity. I think imagination and experimentation should precede lab replications. That has been the process in Imago. One clinical trial has been completed on Imago by the University of Pennsylvania and another is now in progress there. The first one was very positive, and we assume the second will confirm it. Then Imago will have evidence-based status and thus confirmation by laboratory methods. 

Gáspár: It’s been more than four decades ago, if I am correct, since you developed Imago Relationship Therapy. During this time, you also trained thousands of Imago professionals throughout the world, including Romania. How do you feel to see the Imago model being applied with such passion, both in the couples therapy and in the workshops? Did you envision, when you co-created the Imago Relationship Therapy, the impact it will have on people? 

Harville and Helen: No, we had no idea. When we were developing the concepts that were published in Getting the Love You Want, we thought the book would go the way of all books. It would, if positive, have about 5-20 thousand sales, go into paperback and then out of print, in say 5 years. We  did not imagine the Oprah effect which was reinforced by a show every year for about 20 years, which made the book visible. We are comforted by the fact that such publicity does not make a book good; the marketing is effective if the book is good. Given its 4 million sales, we have confirmation of that. 

Gáspár: One of the core questions of Imago Relationship Therapy is – Why do couples fight? You have searched for an answer for 40 years, and the answer is that the conflict within couples has the same roots as the conflict between humans. In a few words, what is the conclusion you have reached? Only a few words, to keep curiosity active for future readers of the book.

Harville and Helen: The question, „why do couples fight?“ was our research question. The answer was elusive and over the years we arrived at about 22 conclusions, none of which seemed satisfactory. Then we did a factor analysis of the list and found they all pointed to „objection to difference“ as the source of all conflict, including couples.

Gáspár: The subtitle, A Clinician’s Guide, suggests that the book is geared mainly towards therapists. But I feel that the book would benefit every client or the ones interested in personal development. What do you think, is it a book only for professionals or is it also accessible to the general public?

Harville and Helen: We are delighted with that question and see it as a suggestion. We wrote it to provide a systematic and comprehensive statement of Imago that included all its theoretical concepts and research support for the clinical-professional world, since such did not exist and we were training in so many countries. But your question suggests that we might should market it to the general public by changing the subtitle to something like „A GUIDE FOR CLINICIANS AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC“. We might change the subtitle on the second edition. 

Gáspár: At the end, I want to reiterate how much I appreciate your work and how profoundly the Imago Relationship Therapy has changed my life. I am certain that the principles of Imago theory constitute a philosophy of life. And, as I know from you how important appreciations are, my last question is – Helen, what do you appreciate most about Harville? Harville, what  are those traits or qualities of Helen that you particularly admire? 

Helen: Harville has the capacity to create simplicity out of the complex. And turn abstractions into transformative practices. 

Harville: Helen has an intuitive mind that sees connections between ideas and people that are not obvious and the capacity to knit together things that initially seem unrelated. Without her, Imago would not have come into being or survived and spread. 

Gáspár: Thank you for your time and I hope that your latest book brings as much peace as possible to our relationships and lives!   

Psiholog clinician, psihoterapeut de familie și cuplu, membru al Colegiului Psihologilor din România, formator la diferite programe de formare complementară, președinte și membru fondator al Asociației Multiculturale de Psihologie și Psihoterapie.

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