Carol Kramer, LCSW is an Advanced Imago Therapist, and had presented the “Getting the Love You Want” and the “Keeping the Love You Find” workshops for 13 years with her late husband Steve Slepian. Carol is a Clinical Instructor on the Imago faculty. She was also trained in Focusing and EMDR. Carol practices in Manhattan
Origins of interest
Safety in an intimate relationship is the foundation for passion and connection to develop and deepen. As a young theater student I became fascinated with the nuance of verbal and non-verbal communication and the power it holds to create or destroy safe connection.
My fascination with the nuances of a character’s evolution on stage led me to develop a keen interest and skill in mining for what lies underneath words. In theater, when two characters are having a conflict, we know it from the looks on their faces, the tone and volume of their voices and from their body language. As a couples therapist, I help both partners deepen their awareness of the different ways they are communicating through body language, vocal tone, volume, and facial expressions, and then I help them bring their communications into greater alignment with their best intentions for their relationship. This helps to promote safety and increases opportunities for connection, through conscious good will and mutual acts of high regard.
In 1993, I had been on a mission to find a therapist or modality that would help my 8- year- old marriage, to Steve, survive. I thought it was a matter of finding the “right” therapist or program who would show my husband what he needed to do to make this relationship work….after all, I was a therapist and I knew that “it was his fault”. After many failed therapeutic attempts: individual & groups, workshop retreats etc. I saw Dr. Harville Hendrix work his magic on Oprah and we went to his Getting the Love You Want Workshop in NYC with 150 other struggling couples and realized that I wasn’t looking at what I was contributing to our “relationship nightmare”. I spent the next 32 years being confronted with this reality, despite my earlier wish that if Steve changed, we would be a happy couple.
We tried to use the dialogue process on our own and finally knew we needed a coach to help us stay non-reactive and present to what the other person was saying. For 32 years, we continued to use the dialogue process until Steve passed away on October 23, 2016. For the most part we were able to create more safety for each other, having more knowledge about the role each of us had in triggering our disconnection and knowing that we had a tool to get us to sit down and focus on the “other’s” point of view.
The impact of Imago and that 1993 workshop with Steve, changed the trajectory of not only my personal life, but of my professional career. I took a sabbatical from my high school social work job and decided to take the Imago Clinical Training. My training was a profound learning journey for me. Harville led the training of 16 therapists with four Master Trainers: Maya Kollman, Sunny Shulkin, Bruce Crapuchettes and Joyce Buckner, contributing their skills as they supervised Clinical Instructors: Hedy Schleifer and Francine De Beauvoir and several others. We shared deep personal experience in this training as well as learning a methodology that I would go on to use to work with couples for 27 years (and counting!) I met people in this training who have become lifelong friends. We gravitated quite naturally towards intimate connection—maybe because we shared a desire to connect in more loving and conscious ways.
After over 20 years, I decided to take an early retirement opportunity from the NYC school system, where I had taught English on the high school level and then became a school social worker. Steve went on to the Educational track and I became a full-time Imago therapist. Several years later, my next step on my Imago journey was for us to present workshops for couples and then for singles. We loved being able to see the transformation most couples experienced as a result of learning this new way of communicating and looking at how each person was contributing to the “relationship nightmare”. Steve and I were both able to engage the couples with our teaching backgrounds, sense of humor as well as our openness about our own relationship challenges.
In 2008, I decided to bring together my therapeutic, teaching and acting background and become an Imago Faculty member. It has been thrilling to teach other therapists this profound way of helping their couples move into more loving relationships and out of the despair they showed up with at their first couples’ session. I loved (and still love) the experience of teaching. When I taught in the NYC public school system, I rarely experienced the satisfaction that comes with witnessing such leaps into competence, confidence and passion that comes with the desire to learn. I finally feel like I’m doing the work I was meant to do. I loved the process of learning about myself at the same time as I was being exposed to creative and transformational ways of helping couples. Maya Kollman, Bruce Crapuchettes, Hedy Schleifer, Pat Love, Sunny Shulkin, Gene Shelly are among the many inspirational teachers I had the joy of working with after the initial Imago Clinical Training.
I went on to work with some amazing Imago therapists to deepen and expand the “Keeping the Love You Find” workbook and workshop. A group of us, called ourselves the “Keepers”,(Sophie Slade, Jill Wolf, Dorsey M. Cartwright) met over a period of years to write a manual and CD, Deepening the Conscious Self: A Toolbox for Groups, Individuals and Couples. We also revised the Keeping manual to focus more on the “individual” than on working with people who were single. From this new perspective I started to lead groups for individuals, “A Course in Relationships” and continued to facilitate this and present this at conferences.
Combining Personal and Professional:
Engaging in this work with my partner was a constant reminder of how I was or wasn’t “walking the talk”. In 1998 we joined a group of other Imago couples and light-heartedly called ourselves, “Couples’ Camp”. This group continued to meet for over 20 years. Once a year, at different U.S. locations, for four days, we cooked, played and worked on giving each other support in our relationships, using the dialogue or group process to deal with the challenges that one or more couples was facing. It was a profound experience which heightened the connection that Imago brought to all of us. As the years passed, some couples thrived and others divorced or split up. After Steve died, Couples’ Camp and the entire Imago Community provided me with so much love and empathy. My grief was reflected in the eyes and hearts of all who knew Steve. At the Imago Conference, in California, two weeks later, the group recognized Steve’s contributions by presenting me with a plaque in his honor.
Another extraordinary group of Imago women, over 60, formed about 12 years ago and called ourselves “the Crones”. We met once a year for 4-5 days and shared intimate connections through writing, collaging, beading, coloring, kayaking, cooking and just plain being silly.
This wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention how none of this would have been possible if it weren’t for the genius, commitment and support of Drs. Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to teach with Harville at Fordham Graduate School of Social Work and then with both Harville and Helen at Cape Cod Institute for several summers. I am deeply grateful for how they have profoundly changed my life, professionally and personally.
Imago impacts the way I view ALL relationships. I feel like I’ve found “home” and the “family” with whom I choose to spend my life. I hope to contribute to expanding this “family” through my trainings and workshops.