Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS)

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Internal Family Systems Therapy or IFS is a powerful form of psychotherapy for facilitating healing from trauma, depression, and other emotional disorders. It was developed in the 1980’s and 1990’s by the psychologist Dr. Richard Schwartz. Since then, through the present, a great deal of empirical research has provided evidence of its effectiveness as a form of psychotherapy for treating trauma, depression, and other psychological disorders.

IFS Therapy is a kindly and compassionate approach in which the therapist trained in IFS can help you develop more compassion for yourself. The IFS way of doing this is to help you become aware of the different “parts” or aspects of yourself and how each “part” does a specific job to help you function.

A core assumption is that these “internal parts” are like sub-personalities that comprise your inner family. Please understand that it is normal to have different aspects or parts of yourself. This helps you adjust to different circumstances in life. Otherwise you would have no flexibility to deal with different situations.

It is taken as a given that every part has a positive intention. The problem is that these different parts of your inner family often get into conflict with each other. The inner conflicts that develop then cause and perpetuate anxiety, depression, and bad habits. The IFS solution to this is to develop a good understanding of your inner family of parts. This is accomplished as your IFS trained therapist coaches you to dialogue with the parts of your inner familyt.

Again, it is important to emphasize that we all have multiple parts or aspects of our personality. It is normal. This helps us cope with different situations. This idea is similar to the fact that we all play different roles in our lives. In one given day you may shift between these roles. You can be a parent, a child, a partner, a spouse, a professional, etc. IFS Therapy categorizes internal parts in terms of the roles they play in helping you function.

  • “Protectors” are your internal parts whose job is to protect you from the emotional pain of past traumas. These protective parts help manage your behavior so that you remain in control. They prevent the pain that is carried subconsciously inside of you by other parts of you from becoming conscious and overwhelming you.
  • Internal Parts that hold emotional pain from your past on a subconscious level are called “Exiles” because they are the parts of you that have been exiled into your subconscious. However these “Exiles” still influence how you feel and how you behave overtly on a conscious level.
  • Then, there is your “Core Self” which is your inner goodness.

As IFS Therapy progresses, the “Core Self” becomes stronger and less influenced by your “Exiles” and “Protective Parts”. Correspondingly you become calmer, more curious, more compassionate, more courageous, and more clear-minded. As this happens, and it is a process, your “Protective Parts” and your “Inner Exiles” develop more and more trust in your “Core Self”.

Before therapy, the well intentioned parts of your “Inner Family” were leaderless and often working at cross purposes – causing inner conflict and psychological and physical stress-related symptoms. However, as the “Core Self” becomes stronger, your other internal parts develop trust in your “Core Self”. Your “core Self” becomes more and more of a leader. The result is that you become more self-accepting, more content, and troubling symptoms no longer remain necessary.


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