Ed Shea refers to himself as a prevention or near divorce specialist. About 60% of his clients are on the verge of divorce. (Doings photo by Steve Johnston)
By Marianne Cortopassi Contributing Writer
On Friday evenings, Edward Shea sits in his Elmhurst office and places a telephone call to Moscow, some 5,000 miles away.
Using Imago Relationship Therapy, he coaches the American couple on the other end of the line in the art of dialogue. It’s an effective communication skill that cuts through criticism and hurt and allows for marital and personal healing and growth.
A relationship coach since 1972, Shea adopted the Imago style in 1992 after seeing co-creator Dr. Harville Hendrix present the concept of intentional dialoguing on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
“I thought what he said was so incredible, I signed up for the next Chicago workshop and became a certified Imago coach,” Shea said. “Imago -has contributed so much to my own marriage and my being the parent of two children. It offers a practical and useful tool that helps my wife and I grow as a couple.”
Shea always works with both people in a relationship. That’s why Imago by Phone has become the preferred method of counseling for many couples who don’t have time for an office session.
“People are incredibly stressed by their schedules,” he said. “Some parents put their children to bed, then get on the phone with me. Since a lot of my clients travel, it’s easy to arrange a phone session between a hotel in Los Angeles and a home in Hinsdale.”
Whatever the arrangement, Shea’s goal is to impart a method of communication that couples can use to deal with their problems long after their sessions with him end.
Get the process and fire the coach,” he said. “The main focus is for couples to learn the frustration dialogue and be able to do it on their own. I’m like a personal trainer who gives them a blueprint for growth, a vehicle for change.”
While Imago may or may not save the marriage, Shea thinks it always makes a difference in people’s lives.
“If a couple does get divorced after Imago therapy, they come apart with less pain and hurt because they have a tool to deal with the emotions. They also co-parent better,” he said.
On the flip side, many couples who learn Imago have a great relationship and want to make it better. A fair number of engaged couples come before they get married, often times receiving Imago therapy sessions as a gift from parents who have gone through it themselves and seen a difference in their marriage.
Shea offers no magical time frame for therapy, but he said 12 sessions over three months gives most couples a good grounding. He also has seen people receive the tools they need for communication during four to six weekly sessions or even one long two-hour session. During the sessions, Shea teaches the fundamentals of a good dialogue, including mirroring and validating each other’s feelings.
“It’s such a privilege to see couples walk the path more consciously and reactively,” Shea said. “That’s when romantic love becomes vintage love.”
The Doings Newspapers - Thursday, February 12, 2004