Internal Family Systems (IFS)
Internal Family Systems (IFS) – is also known as Parts Work
This modality was founded by Richard Schwartz, Ph.D. and has become such a powerful and popular modality that there are 1000s of therapists on waiting lists to take the first level of IFS training.
IFS was based on the Family Systems Model that Schwartz had learned early in his career in working with families. Over time, working at a facility with people who had eating disorders, he was hearing his clients speak about having parts of them that wanted to eat and parts of them that didn’t. Parts of them that were angry and parts were sad.
Here are some books from the Recommended Reading page on IFS.
As he listened and became curious about these parts, he recognized that we all have these parts of ourselves and when referred to them as such, we could recognize that we may have parts that are sad, but that doesn’t mean that we are necessarily completely sad. That parts exist at the same time.
He also recognized that we all have SELF. Basically, the conductor of our orchestra is made up of our parts.
Sometimes it’s difficult for the SELF to be in charge and lead the parts and this causes our parts to take over and run the show.
As our parts were formed to protect us from whatever traumatic event was happening at the time, the parts being in charge are usually overburdened with responsibility and that’s when we act in ways that might not be considered acceptable to ourselves and/or others.
“You’re acting like a child” is something we might hear if our parts are overwhelming our SELF.
By providing love and compassion to our parts and listening to and understanding their concerns, with the help of a trained therapist, we can help our parts unburden and free up our system.
All Parts Are Welcome and needed in our system, they only need to be understood.
When SELF is in charge we can tell because we are Compassionate, Calm, Creative, Connected, Clear, etc.
There are no BAD parts, only Burdened parts and when our parts learn that we want to get to know them better, they really want to become more integrated into and help to regulate the system.
While parts work can sound a lot like we are talking about multiple personalities, you’re not totally wrong.
Everyone has parts, you can be happy for your best friend who just found out that he was hired for the job you both applied for and both really wanted!… AND you can be really sad and jealous that you didn’t get the job and he did!
Unfortunately, our culture does not come from that paradigm. Our culture uses what Schwartz calls the “mono-mind belief”, but in reality we all experience multiplicity.
The difference between someone with a diagnosis of Multiple Personality Disorder (now actually called Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)) and everyone else is that TERRIBLE abuse caused the parts to separate so much that they are disconnected from each other.
The IFS therapist will help the client locate their parts one at a time as they appear in their body.
Sadness may appear as a tightening or constriction in the chest area and anger may show up as heat on the top of someone’s head. Once connected to the body, it is easier to work with. IFS uses some of the techniques in SE, so they work nicely together.
In all of these modalities we “Go Slow to Go Fast.”
Taking our time so that we don’t retraumatize the system. When we work gently and decisively, we heal more quickly.