Internal Family Systems (IFS)
About Internal Family Systems
Internal Family Systems are a psychotherapeutic approach that helps people understand and work with the different parts of their personality.
It was developed by Richard Schwartz, a clinical psychologist who realised that clients who struggled with chronic and complex issues had a range of internal experiences, often described as voices or parts. These parts could be conflicting, contradictory, and even antagonistic, leading to anxiety, depression, addiction, and other psychological problems.
The Internal Family Systems Model
This model suggests that our psyche is not a monolithic entity but rather a collection of sub-personalities or parts that have different roles, beliefs, emotions, and memories. These parts are organised into a system, much like a family, where each part has its own voice, needs, and agenda. For instance, a person may have a critical part that judges and shames them, a wounded part that feels vulnerable and scared, a protector part that tries to keep them safe from harm, and a manager part that plans and organises their life.
According to IFS, the goal of therapy is not to eliminate or suppress these parts, but rather to understand and heal them. By accessing and engaging with each part in a respectful and curious way, the therapist helps the client to build a trusting relationship with their internal system and facilitate self-awareness, self-compassion, and self-leadership.
By working with the internal parts, IFS can help people to:
– Reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, trauma, addiction, and other mental health issues
– Enhance self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth
– Improve relationships with others by cultivating empathy, compassion, and understanding
– Increase resilience, creativity, and adaptability by tapping into the resources and strengths of each part
– Develop a more authentic and fulfilling life by aligning with their true self and values
The IFS process typically involves the following steps
Mapping the parts: The therapist helps the client identify the different parts of their system and understand their roles, functions, and interactions.
Accessing the parts: The therapist guides the client to enter a relaxed and mindful state where they can connect with each part and listen to its voice and message.
Acknowledging and validating the parts: The therapist helps the client acknowledge and validate the feelings, beliefs, and needs of each part, even if they seem contradictory or irrational.
Unburdening the parts: The therapist supports the client to release the burdens and traumas that the parts may carry and facilitate their healing and transformation.
Integrating the parts: The therapist assists the client to integrate the parts into a more coherent and harmonious system, where each part has a positive intention and serves the whole person.
Internal Family Systems:
Internal Family Systems is a powerful and innovative therapy that offers a transformative way of understanding and healing the human psyche. By exploring the different parts of our personality and embracing their diversity and complexity, we can access a deeper level of self-awareness, self-compassion, and self-growth. Whether you are struggling with a specific problem or seeking to enhance your overall well-being, IFS can help you discover the hidden potentials and resources within you and unleash your full potential.