Pierrette Richard is a psychologist, senior partner and co-owner of the Clinic of Applied Psychology, a privately-run business situated in Moncton NB, CANADA. She is a skilled Imago Therapist, Workshop Presenter and Clinical Instructor. Her husband, Roland Bryar, works in the field of Arts and Culture Management and is also an Imago Educator. Together, they facilitate workshops and trainings in French and in English. My Imago Journey My adventure with Imago started in 1996 when I bought Harville Hendrix’s book “Getting the Love You Want.” I had just started working in private practice and part of my caseload included individuals consulting for family and couple therapy. At the time, my training in Family Systems as well as in Solution Focused theories were guiding my interventions with this clientele. Hendrix’s book blew me away. As I kept reading, I pictured his concepts and how they applied to my own relationship as well as to those of the couples I was working with. His formulation was distinctive in that it constituted a unified theory of committed relationships: from partner selection, to the inevitable conflicts that arise and the tools to reestablish connection. In addition, everything was framed in growth and development. As I was assimilating Imago theory, my own relationship with my husband was by then well rooted in the “Power Struggle” phase. I remember clearly the many mornings when Roland would drive me to work and we would have repetitive arguments regarding frustrations (mostly mine) around housework, finances and raising our children. I would start my day at work irritated but mostly discouraged at how we were unable to settle our differences. I questioned our relationship, wondering if we were compatible and if it was worth all the heartache. In my egocentric (symbiotic) perspective, I viewed Roland as incapable of insight and unable to listen to others (me). I was completely unconscious of the role I played in our relational dynamic. In 2001, Roland and I travelled to Montreal, Québec to attend the “Getting the Love You Want” workshop, facilitated by the wonderful and astute Sophie Slade. This workshop radically changed my perception of my partner. I rediscovered his tender, vulnerable self and his enormous capacity for listening. My greatest realization was how I was reactivating his old hurts; my empathy and love for him increased tenfold. During that whole weekend, we found ourselves back in the romantic phase, filled with passion and appreciation for each other. This encounter with Sophie Slade, an Imago faculty member, definitely threw a curve ball in my professional path. Sophie is an Instructor who is warm and also able to assert what needs to be said. At one point she told me: “Pierrette you may want to challenge yourself by not finishing Roland’s sentences for him.” This was a gift for me and even more for Roland! Sophie teaches Imago with ease and the way she integrates the theory in her daily life had a huge impact on me. I also wanted to share these tools to couples and reignite their passion and connection; basically I wanted to become Sophie! Becoming an Imago Therapist Shortly after the workshop, I registered in the Basic Clinical Training in Imago Relationship Therapy, again with Sophie Slade. During the registration process, Sophie asked me if Roland wanted to follow the training with me. I was surprised and told her Roland was not a therapist and therefore I thought he was not eligible for admission. She explained how Imago therapists are encouraged to bring their partners as it gives them the opportunity to practice the theory and its tools. I was impressed with the Imago Organization for having this wise and amazing idea.” Of course Roland, always so open to adventure, agreed right away. Our journey together with the Imago community commenced. Not only did we assist Basic Imago Training, we also attended all other Advanced trainings together. The yearly Imago International Conferences were another treasure on our path. A few of its jewels: Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt presenting recent developments in Imago theory in person, International authors and keynote speakers specializing in different aspects of couple relationships (sexuality, trauma, etc.) and mini workshops helping to deepen Imago work. To top it all off, during these conferences we have connected and made friends with people all over the world. It is during one of these conferences that I became acquainted with Rebecca Sears, another Instructor on the Imago faculty. She was presenting on the theme of: “Working with Highly Reactive Couples.” At one point during her exposé, she read a letter she had received from a couple who was dissatisfied with her services; they were very critical of her. She shared with us her initial reaction. With hindsight and much vulnerability, she owned up to the part she had played in their dissatisfaction. She read us her letter of response, a letter full of empathy and validation for them. In this real life example, Rebecca illustrated the key notion of her presentation: Imago therapists may get emotionally triggered while doing therapy and must be conscious of their own reactivity and learn to manage it. I found her so inspiring I decided on the spot to attend one of her advanced trainings (in fact we participated in several of them.) Transformation in my Clinical Practice Since practicing Imago, my work with couples in therapy has been transformed. I witness touching moments of connection, of partners having insights and couples softening and showing up vulnerable. Imago therapy helps to understand how each partner makes sense and how conflict is calling them to make positive changes. Of course, some couples can be more challenged and, like with all other approaches, in those times we have to consult or request supervision from Imago colleagues. Workshop Presenters The next leg of our journey took us to Washington DC with the lovely Rebecca where Roland and I trained to become Presenters of the “Getting the Love You want” Workshop. As always, Rebecca is a connection driven Instructor. She taught us to facilitate groups by focusing on our energy, reminding us to slow down and to create safety for our couples. Back on the Canadian East Coast, we now facilitate workshops and the feedback is overwhelmingly positive. I resonate with some of the comments of the participants such as: “I came here to change my partner to find out that I have to change.” And how can one not be touched by the words someone once wrote me: “This workshop has saved my relationship”. Imago work gives results; in turn we are energized and motivated to pursue the work. At this point, I felt the cycle was complete, we had started off by attending a couple’s workshop and now here we were facilitating these workshops. I did not imagine the journey would continue… Member of the Imago International Training Institute In 2019, another branch of the Imago path opened up; I was offered a seat as faculty with Imago International Training Institute. I am now an Instructor of Imago Relationship Therapy for therapists wanting to be trained in this wonderful approach. I could not have imagined a more fulfilling life project. The cherry on top…I get to do it with Roland, my brilliant life partner! Developing our Imago Community Our most ardent desire is to train Imago therapists in our part of the world. We believe having close access to colleagues contributes to learning and growth, plus we get to form enriching relationships with each other. Our vision is to start by offering Imago training in Atlantic Canada and Québec and of course anywhere else in Canada and the world. Wherever Imago will take us next, we will follow with open hearts!
Pierrette Richard, M.A.Ps., L. Psych.
LOCATION: Canada | English, French