Jill Wolf, LCSW is in private practice in Skokie, IL (just north of Chicago) and is among the first five people in Illinois trained by Dr. Harville Hendrix in 1989. She is an Advanced Clinician, a Workshop Presenter for Couples and Individuals, an Imago Consultant for professionals and a Faculty Candidate. In addition to being the president of the non-profit professional organization, Imago Chicago, Jill is a very active and dedicated member of the Imago community serving on a variety of committees. Jill is co-author of The Conscious Self Imago Toolbox, and author of a chapter in Healing in the Relational Paradigm: The Imago Relationship Therapy Casebook. Her passion for helping people create loving relationships, her warmth and energy, and her sense of humor has made her a sought after clinician and presenter. Additionally, Jill has been Imago’s resident stand-up comedienne often performing at Imago’s annual international conferences. Her five kids keep her humble by letting her know she’s not that funny. MY STORY It’s funny how one small decision can effect the whole trajectory of one’s life. It was an unremarkable morning in February, 1989, the kind many moms of young kids have. I was home with my two daughters who were then 2 ½ and 1 – yes, 18 months apart. It seems I was always nursing or feeding someone, changing someone’s diaper, trying to clean who knows what that stain was from some clothes. If I tried, I could sometimes fit in some time for myself. Nothing outrageous, maybe just watching a few minutes of Oprah. Watching Oprah was especially a treat for me because in Chicago at that time her program ran at the same time as Sesame Street and if the television was on at all, it was for the kids to watch that. But in what I’ve come to see as a pivotal moment, I put Sesame Street on for the kids in the living room and turned on Oprah on my little set in the kitchen. This was pre-DVR days. Seems like centuries ago. As it happened, Oprah’s guest was Harville Hendrix who was promoting his new book, “Getting the Love You Want.” I was mesmerized. My husband and I had been in therapy on and off since before we were married, but it was nothing like I was seeing on this show. We (I, really) wanted to do some preventative work on our relationship so we could avoid creating the experiences of our parents. I came from an abusive family with parents who divorced when I was 12 and who then went on to have an even worse relationship with each other than when they were married. I was the first born of 3 and grew up feeling like I had to parent myself and protect my siblings. My husband came from a family whose parents also divorced. They waited until he went to college, had an amicable divorce and his father even walked down the aisle at our wedding with his current wife on one arm and his first wife on the other! While his parents’ marriage was a sort of cold war and my parents’ was explosive, neither of us grew up with models of what a healthy, loving marriage might look like. The therapist we were seeing was very likable. In our sessions, we would take turns talking to him. This is what I would eventually call “parallel individual therapy.” And while the therapist was very nice and I had a few new insights about myself, my husband and I had to go home with each other, no better equipped than when we started. Back to Oprah. At the end of this powerful show for which she eventually won an Emmy for its social importance, they flashed a phone number to call. Again, prehistoric, I mean pre-internet days. I called to inquire and they said Harville would be presenting a workshop in Chicago within a month. I told my husband about it and used the only communication tool I had at that time which was to issue an ultimatum: “I don’t care if we have to sell furniture to pay for it, we are going to this workshop!” I was very subtle in those days. I dragged my reluctant husband to the workshop so that Harville could fix him and then found out how much work I had to do! I began to understand myself and my husband in totally new ways. I came to understand that he experienced me as critical. This was actually a revelation to me! I thought I was just asking him questions like, “Why can’t you ever remember to close the cabinet door?” and “How come it’s so hard to be on time?” and so many more it’s embarrassing to recall. If there was an Olympic event for nagging, I would be in contention for a medal. The workshop was life changing, to say the least. I saw relationships in a completely different light. I learned that it wasn’t by accident that he and I were together! It was so we could set up unhappy situations familiar to us so we could try to have a different outcome. We didn’t have to stay in the nightmare! With the appropriate tools and work, relationships can provide an opportunity to heal and grow! Imago gave me the tools to transform complaints into requests, to understand where my needs originated from, to find appropriate ways to get those needs met which at times had nothing to do with my husband, and to grow parts of myself that were naturally underdeveloped given the childhood I experienced. Before starting our family, I was working as a social worker in the child welfare system. I saw kids who were abused and neglected, trying their best to survive in inadequate environments. I often thought, “If somebody could have helped the parents, maybe these kids wouldn’t be in the system in the way that they were.” I decided to take a career turn professionally and by the fall of 1989 began my Imago Clinical Training with Harville Hendrix at his New York office. I was certified as an Imago Therapist in 1990. I stayed in that marriage for another 5 years and another daughter. I did the work that was mine to do, and really began liking myself a whole lot more. Unfortunately, the wounding that my husband experienced in his family was deeper than either of us initially knew, and he dealt with that by trying to numb out via his addictions. He either couldn’t or wouldn’t get the help that might have made a difference. We parted without malice knowing we would be in some sort of relationship for the rest of our lives since we shared our daughters, and indeed walked down the aisle arm in arm when our middle daughter, Dahlia, got married last year. Despite that marriage not having a fairy tale ending, my confidence in the Imago model grew as my practice did. I was able to help couples to use the tools to transform their relationships from unconscious ones filled with conflict, frustration and disconnection to more conscious ones filled with healing, growth, intimacy and connection. And I’m happy to share that these tools have enriched my own relationship with my current partner with whom I will soon celebrate our 12 year anniversary. I continued my training with Harville Hendrix and some of his new faculty to become a Workshop Presenter for the Getting the Love You Want workshop, and then later went on to present the Keeping the Love You Find workshop for individuals when that book came out. Imago Therapy invites its practitioners to get curious and conscious about themselves and their own relationships. In fact, attendance at a Getting the Love You Want workshop is one of the requirements of the certification process and is strongly encouraged before you even start the training. Those who are not currently in a committed relationship can attend the Keeping the Love You Find workshop for individuals. Over the years, while investigating and learning about other approaches, I consistently saw how transformational and effective Imago therapy is for couples. I at times found myself doing repair work for couples who had been through previous “parallel individual therapy.” They often said how much they wish they had found Imago sooner. One of the unexpected benefits of becoming an Imago therapist is the opportunity to be part of an amazing (now international!) community of therapists. Many of my deepest friendships are the result of meeting and learning with people at the various Imago trainings and conferences I attended. Imago therapist are a warm and inclusive bunch! I’m delighted to be able now to teach therapists how to become Imago therapists. If you feel led to helping people learn how to love and be loved, I am happy to be a fellow traveller with you on this path. Together we can help transform the world, one relationship at a time!
TRAININGS BY (Jill)
Characterological Growth: Parts Work for Relationships Advanced CourseDATE:STARTS February 22, 2024