About Us

What's Love Got To Do With It?

With Imago there is HOPE!

.01 From Ecstasy to Agony

I feel like I have known you all of my life. Why do the very things about you that I fell in love with, now drive me crazy now?

Imago Theory posits that partner selection is the result of an unconscious match between a mental image of one’s parents, created in childhood (called Imago) and an attraction to certain character traits of a potential partner.

Physiological arousal is the direct result of attraction. The brain sends messages to the adrenal gland, which produces hormones that cause the physical sensations associated with love: increased heart rate, sweatiness, and shallow breathing. Norepinephrine targets attention and response, such as the feeling of being “weak in the knees” or distracted. Dopamine supports the sense of craving and euphoria that often accompany new love. Oxytocin, released during orgasm, fosters a sense of attachment that may belie the reality of the situation.

The relationship cycle begins with romantic love—a strong attraction to someone who somehow seems familiar. When the chemistry of the romance begins to subside, the power struggle emerges—through conflict the couple unconsciously makes a bid for change. Committing to growth, the couple moves into a conscious relationship using Imago Dialogue to achieve understanding and empathy for their partner.

.02 Structure vs. Freedom

Differing responses to stress and conflict set the cycle of arguments, disagreements, and ruptures into motion.

It is not unusual for two people with opposite approaches to life to be drawn to each other. She is a homebody; he is a wanderer. She likes freedom; he wants structure. She is intuitive; he is logical. She is single minded and focused; he is a multi-tasker. It is the differences in how you approach day to day living that begin to drive your mate crazy.

Some partners pull all of their energy inward when they are stressed, while others direct their energy outward in the same situation. Think of them as turtles (restoring through withdrawal) and hailstorms (restoring through contact). Opposing energies are passionately and hopelessly drawn to each other. Pushed to the limit, both the turtle and the hailstorm can pivot to behave like their partner. The turtle snaps unexpectedly when the hailstorm storming or the storm shuts down just when the turtle is finally ready to talk.

These approaches to living and stress are coded from childhood and represent the very parts of yourself that you most need to grow and develop. Your partner is your best chance of getting your needs met.


Learn how your approach to life effects your thinking and behavior. Attend a Getting the Love You Want Workshop for couples.

.03 Conflict and Frustration

Often what you need most from your partner is what he or she is least capable of giving to you. Your greatest needs are your partner’s greatest opportunity to stretch and grow.

This is the beginning of making an intentional conscious change in the way that you approach your relationship and the person you love. Your response to differences, disagreements or difficult decisions has been hindered by your need to survive. Your self-preservation protects you from the pain of the potential or actual conflict. When you are both willing to be curious, seek to understand rather than respond, you can recommit to the relationship.

.04 Healing the wounds of the past.

The moment you commit to being in a relationship with someone else, an energy field between you is born. Like the gravitational pull that keeps planets in orbit, your magnetic response to another person governs the Space Between you.

In Imago Therapy we refer to the relationship as “the client.” It is the space between two people that is tended in therapy. It is the connection that couples strengthen so that they are able to repair ruptures which will come up in the relationship. For this reason, Imago Therapists form a bond with the couple by focusing on the energy between the partners.

The difficulty for most couples is that lack of safety when wounds from childhood has been unconsciously reactivated. Learning how to resist the defensive tools that support your survival is key to finding the cure in the pain. In this way couples can create a safe conscious connection in which growth is possible and old wounds are healed.

In therapy you will help each other to name your wounds, clarify what you need to heal, grow yourself into becoming each other’s healer and become stronger, more complete individuals in your relationship.

.05 Zero Negativity

Do you roll your eyes, turn away, or tune out when your partner is speaking? Say what you mean, mean what you say, and don’t say it mean. Negativity is not limited to words. What you do conveys as clearly as what you say and how you say it.

Harville Hendrix, the author of Getting the Love You Want,” introduced the idea of Zero Negativity when he said “end all blame, shame and criticism in your relationship.” Negativity or frustration is often a wish or need disguise as criticism. What is the real motivation behind your reaction? Learning to listen for the purpose of understanding rather than responding, making sense of your partner’s thoughts and feelings through validation, and empathizing by putting yourself in your partner’s world are the building blocks of Imago Dialogue.

Imago Dialogue provides a foundation for safe conversations between partners by eliminating negativity and reactivity, and slowing down the exchange so that each person is heard and understood. A core value of Imago Dialogue is loving, caring curiosity. “I am angry about what you said (or did) …and I want to understand what you meant…tell me more.” Invite your partner to talk about their fears, hurts, reactions, and deepest desires.

.06 Fight Flight or Freeze

Your primitive survival drive equates pain with DEATH! Your partner’s defense against his or her pain looks like your worst fear of how your needs were not met as a child.

A cycle of disappointment and defense is set in motion, escalating quicklyIn Imago Relationship Therapy you each becomes aware of your unmet needs from childhood, unconscious relationship agenda, and survival defenses that have served you for years.

Not surprisingly, these unconscious functions are no longer working, now your defenses are contributing to the disconnection in your relationship. In Imago Relationship Therapy you will learn and use skills to relate in ways that are consistent with your intentions rather than your primitive survival response.

.07 A good marriage equals a long life!

It takes two people to create a relationship pattern, but only one to change it. –Esther Perel

Imago Relationship Therapy has benefits: you will experience feelings of worth, importance, and value. You will have the time and space to figure out your own “self” whilst staying connected to your partner. A core challenge of a relationship is to have a self AND remain connected. Mutual, accurate, empathic, attuned dialogue helps resolve that challenge. This process allows you to see your partner rather than your projection of him or her, thereby deepening your understanding, empathy, and connection.

Longitudinal studies on aging reveal that people who have mastered love, laughter and connection in their relationship live longer lives!  “Marriage is not only important to healthy aging; it is often the cornerstone of adult resilience.

.08 Laugh More

Laugh more. Offer sweet caring gestures to your best beloved. Have FUN together. Ask for what you want, and tell your partner what you like and desire.

Humans are wired for connection. At our core is JOY! And joy and connection are the two sides of the relationship coin. You can be happy or right; happy is a choice. If you assume that a “good” marriage is one where he knows what you think and want, you cede your power, your identity and your “self” to another. If you expect her to anticipate your needs and never verbalize them, she will become the “expert” on you and she may not get it right. Appreciations and caring behaviors are gifts we offer to our partners, why not ask “What would you like from me?” Some things she wants will be easy to do, others may require you to stretch. Tell him what he does or says that you notice and appreciate. Observe how you feel when she cares for you and your well-being. Pay attention to how you behave when he does that sweet nice thing.

Sex is always on the table. Are you getting the sex you each want? What do you do that prevents that from happening? Physical intimacy is as important as emotional intimacy. So what do you want to do about it? Using the safety of Imago Dialogue and building on the connection between the two of you, be curious about even the hardest most traumatic topics. A lack of sex, by which we mean less than 4 times a month, is a useful alarm bell. The reciprocated longing for sex will have a negative impact on the relationship. Disappointment, rejection, and hurt will emerge as rupturing behaviors. What conditions make sex possible in your relationship?

Welcome to PC&CC and the Imago Center of DC

PC&CC and the Imago Center provide professional counseling, consultation services and Imago Relationship Therapy in Maryland, and Washington D.C., to individuals, couples, families, and adolescents.  Our doors are open to all people regardless of race, religious preferences, age, sex or sexual orientation.

The Pastoral Counseling and Consultation Center (PC&CC) has been serving the Greater Washington area since 1965.

The Imago Center operates under the umbrella of PC&CC and specializes in Imago Relationship Therapy.   PC&CC seized upon the opportunity to specialize in this transformative therapeutic modality in 2009. All of the PC & CC therapists are trained in Imago Relationship Therapy. Other specialties offered by our therapists include CBT, EMDR, PEP.

In addition to specializing in relationship issues at home or work, our seasoned therapists can help you address a variety of challenges including but not limited to: grief, loss, transition, depression, anxiety, anger management, abuse recovery and trauma. Visit our staff page to find a counselor in your area today.   Or call 202-449-3789 to talk to a live person.