About Me

Hello! I’m Cathy

About Me, my experience and my education

I am a social worker in private practice. I started working at the Dept of Health and Welfare where I counselled alcoholics and drug addicts, as well as families with rebellious teenagers. I then moved to work at FAMSA, Durban, (the Family and Marriage Society) in 1987 where I started to focus on family and marital counselling. I then started my own private practice in 1995. I mainly do relationship counselling, but I also do some Employee Assistance work. Since about 1990, I have also lectured and supervised under-graduate and post-graduate social work students and colleagues. Over the years, I have attended many conferences and workshops in different forms of marital and family therapy, and as I believe in lifelong learning, I continue to do so. I completed my Masters degree specialising in marital and family therapy in 1994, and my thesis examined the effect of being self-employed on marriage. Then I completed my PhD in 2016, and my thesis looked at Zulu marriage in contemporary society, and the impact on marriage counselling. Thus my practice is inclusive, and contains many couples of all races and cultures, all religions, all ages and a variety of sexual orientations.

My Approach & Values

Initially when I started to work with improving relationships, I focused very much on a couple’s feelings, thoughts and behaviour, in order to understand how to change these. I still use this to some extent, but I found that it didn’t help those people who got stuck in their conflicts.

I therefore now use Imago Relationship Therapy. It fits my values because it stresses that it is the relationship between the couple that is the focus of change. We don’t take sides as to who is right or wrong, as we respect both people and their viewpoints. We first build up the energy and vibe between the couple so that it is safe to communicate, and to feel heard and understood, even if you don’t agree with each other. This emphasis on safety, thereby being open to hear and understand each other, is the result of learning the Imago Dialogue, which provides the couple with a tool to use at home. I teach the Imago Intentional Dialogue by sharing what you each appreciate and respect about each other, and how you express your love for one another. My purpose is to build a strong foundation for the relationship so that when you discuss the challenges and the behaviours that need changing, you are both able to do so constructively. We are aiming to fulfil the vision that you have for your relationship. Imago Relationship Therapy is a practical, structured way of communicating constructively so that not only can you negotiate and solve problems, but you can also understand both your own and your partner’s triggers and reactivity. As the negativity, hostility and taking each other for granted decrease, so the appreciation, kindness, cherishment, fun and romance increase. That deep understanding of each other, your own emotions and their origin allows a richness to develop in your relationship.  

So what is Imago Relationship Therapy?

Imago Relationship Therapy is a theory and practice of relationships based on the work of Harville Hendrix Ph.D. and his wife Helen Lakelly Hunt Ph.D. It integrates several well established psychological theories and observations into a practical approach to help couples deepen and transform their relationships. This approach to relationships is easy to understand and is very effective. In Imago Relationship Therapy the relationship becomes the centre of focus, rather than either individual. The Imago therapist is not a judge or jury to determine who is right and who is wrong, but coaches you into growing and cherishing your relationship.

Harville Hendrix explains that as there are no perfect parents, all of us have some emotional wounding from our childhood. Thus when we developed emotionally as a child, the process was incomplete. We have also all experienced varying forms of love and nurturing during our childhood. As a result, we grow into adulthood with an emotional blue-print or a “love map” that is familiar to us – Hendrix calls this “the Imago”. Thus when we first meet our partner, we are attracted to their attributes that fit with our own Imago or love map. Once all the hormones that occur initially when you fall in love stabilise, conflicts start appearing. A power struggle arises as each person tries to meet their own emotional needs within the relationship, and the individuals start to react negatively to each other. This is when most people come for therapy – Imago Relationship therapy is a safe, structured way of communicating with each other, that enables each person to understand both themselves and each other better. Hendrix suggests that the purpose of marriage is to help each other to complete any unfinished business from childhood. Instead of being reactive, we can become more conscious and responsive, as we learn how we can help each other heal the emotional scars of childhood, and grow into our full potential in a safe, committed relationship.

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