Internal Family Systems (IFS) is a deeply profound and yet playful approach to healing that makes use of how the mind naturally works with inner narratives, dialogue and imagination.
Internal Family Systems
"IN IFS ALL PARTS ARE WELCOME"
- IFS developer Dick Schwartz
“Internal Family Systems is a powerfully transformative, evidence-based model of psychotherapy. We believe the mind is naturally multiple and that is a good thing. Our inner parts contain valuable qualities and our core Self knows how to heal, allowing us to become integrated and whole.”
Also commonly know as Parts therapy, the works premise suggests that we all have multiple aspects to our character (Parts) arranged around a core Self that hold’s inherently positive characteristic such as compassion and a desire for connection. When we work with IFS we bring this internal community into greater harmony by having the Self hear and resolve issues going on inside us.
Parts are great. They manifest in all sorts of ways from beliefs to attitudes, goals or concerns. These facets of our character make us unique as individuals and give us multiple perspectives from which to steer our lives. Sometimes an individual Part’s behavioural strategies can become extreme however and this has repercussions on our lives affecting our relationship and physical health. These extreme strategies are a Part’s attempt to protective us or try to stop more vulnerable Parts from hijacking our system when we’ve been triggered by whats happening in our environment.
Ever had the experience of coming into conflict with someone and stepping away to be “I can’t believe I said that” or “I don’t know what came over me”? This would be a protective part stepping up to do this work.
IFS characterises three different types of parts. Those that protect us; Managers who help us function in the social and Firefighters who try to shut pain down no matter what the cost and Exile Parts, the ones shut off in our system as they are carrying the burdens of past trauma.
All Parts are trying to do their best for us. Even those responsible for addictive behaviour or illness are just trying to protect us from something that was once a greater threat to ours or our ancestors life. This could be a situation where our life needs weren’t met, as with childhood abandonment or an incident so threatening it sent our system into freeze. Parts simply do not realise the initial threat is over. When we listen to them we can update them and look to develop other options for their roles in our system.
A session involves selecting a troubled Part, investigating a symptom or addressing those at the centre of a sense of internal conflict. This is often expressed in the statement “part of me thinks this, but part of me thinks that”. Though consent-full negotiation and compassionate listening by the Self, these protectors will lead us to our exiles so we can witness what they went through. Its then possible to release them of their burdens and update them by bring them into the safety of the present, by using techniques often referred to as reparenting. This essentially rebuilds neurological connections pervious disturbed by trauma. Once this weight is lifted our protectors tend to feel liberated and can modify their roles to better reflect their positive intent for our system.
This might all sound quite fantastical but this multiplicity is so integral to how we are structured that the process naturally unfurls and it becomes hard to imagine what life was like before you started to notice the Parts within you and all they offer.
Experiencing a session is the best way to understand it:
Being able to tune in to our internal dialogue at will is a skill we can develop which has deep consequences beyond the therapy session.
We term this internal conscious negotiation - becoming Self-led. Learning how to listen to Parts as they arise and speak for them rather than from them, allows us to direct our energy in ways that are socially constructive. When we speak for a part that recognises an injustice rather than directly from the anger, we can be coherent in our communication, giving space for dynamic relationship change by allowing others to respond in a multiplicity of ways rather than from singular defensive position.
IFS takes into consideration the inevitability of our trauma induced blindspots, positioning all individuals as a work in progress capable of deep change when addressed with compassion.
IFS is therefore not just a therapeutic practice, its an insight into other ways of thinking and being in the world, offering alternative suggestions for how we might relate with and through each other.
SYSTEM HOLDING TRAUMA
As Parts choose to express themselves in a multiplicity of different ways when protecting us or trying to get our attention these often include ailments, symptoms, illness and tensions in the body. I offer ways of combining this with the TRE process using the tremor to expose Parts in need, or dialoguing with them to help release stuck patterns.
One of the most beautiful things about IFS is how intuitive is feels and easy it is to adopt in life beyond the session. We all have an internal dialogue, the IFS process simply helps us to tune into it so we can hear and act of what it tell us, connecting us to our intuition. This makes it easy to work with in slighter ways too, as Parts will actively help out when we are using another method. Similarly we can work with the body to nourish our Parts, bring them in to the present while updating them of their safety.
I’ve found IFS to be highly successful in curing physical symptoms such as asthma, fibromyalgia, insomnia, hay fever, inflammation and psoriasis as once the Part producing these effects comes to understand they don't serve us the embodied strategy will be given up, with permanent healing taking effect.
Contact me for a free 20 min consultation to discuss how IFS could help you.
There are parts common to all of us, for example, who doesn’t have a self- critic, or a fussy manager that likes to ensure we’re in control. When we come to understand our own Parts misplaced but good intentions, greater tolerance for how others vulnerabilities might also act out becomes possible.
“IFS is a movement. A new, empowering paradigm for understanding and harmonizing the mind and, thereby, larger human systems. One that can help people heal and helps the world become a more compassionate place.”
Its a beautiful method for interpersonal mediation and understanding whats really at stake in a conflict. It’s commonly used with couples or groups experiencing conflict and originally developed out of Dicks work as a a family therapist. I personally work with a few different approaches, contact me bellow if you’d like to know more about this process.
As well as working 1-2-1 I use it to underly accountability practices, teaching others how to apply its principals when settling conflict arising in group dynamics. Conflict after all represent a moment of opportunity, when we come to understand whats at stake for all parties we can align around collective goals while harnessing the gifts unique to each individual.
Parts models organisation relationships in a fractal way, exposing how system dynamics relate to political configurations. I often teach an lead workshops showing how this prospective and its tool can have on how we can think of heal and evolve our political situations.
For upcoming workshops click bellow:
To enquire about group work, please get in touch: