What is IFS therapy  and how does it work?

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re fighting yourself more than anything else? It seems like you are made up of many different parts and, quite often, those parts are not working in sync. In a way, it reminds you of a team that needs a new game plan. Even better, it’s a family in which the different family members each have their own plan for how to make things run.

In a recent post, I talked about the crucial role of an Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapist. In the process, of course, you got a primer on the basics of IFS.  We will take a deep dive starting with this first of a four-part series.

What Is IFS?

Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy is a form of evidence-based psychotherapy that is rapidly gaining in popularity. Like any treatment approach, it can be explained in technical jargon. For the purposes of this post, let’s make things more accessible. Here is IFS in a nutshell:

  • Each of us is made up of many “sub-personalities.” These parts sometimes try to cooperate but often conflict with each other.
  • A conflict between sub-personalities typically leads to counterproductive behaviors and patterns.
  • IFS is designed to identify these misalignments and accept them as needing attention.
  • Healing the parts that are in conflict can lead to replacing dysfunctional habits and thus, enhance personal growth.

Designed four decades ago by psychotherapist Richard C. Schwartz, Ph.D., IFS categorizes the sub-personalities in three ways. “Exiles” are the parts that carry trauma and/or pain. In a sincere attempt to help, “Managers” and “Firefighters” suppress  or deflect our attention from “Exiles” to avoid the pain. Over time, not dealing with the root issues just adds to the dysfunction.

abstract image of a brainThe Self

This is a part of you, unlike the ones listed above. The Self is your core. It is meant to lead and guide your internal system. The Self centers you within your beliefs and values. However, when exiles, managers, and firefighters are running amok, we can mistake any of them for The Self. Therefore, one primary focus of IFS is to guide  a person back to more fully embodying The Self.

To help clients identify Self, there are pointers such as “the eight Cs”  and “five Ps. These all point to the qualities of self:

8 Cs

  • Confidence
  • Calmness
  • Creativity
  • Clarity
  • Curiosity
  • Courage
  • Compassion
  • Connectedness

5 Ps

  • Presence
  • Patience
  • Perspective
  • Persistence
  • Playfulness

How Does Internal Family Systems Therapy Work?

One of the primary aims of IFS is to introduce the client to the concept that they have an internal system. This is not a “split personality.” It is the normal functioning of our complex minds. From there, it is vital to accept that past events are reshaping how our sub-personalities behave and interact. If these parts are out of balance, we will be experiencing that imbalance in many ways. Healing the wounded parts of yourself is a proven path toward living a fuller, more balanced life.

IFS can help you:

  • Better understand the behavioral patterns in your life
  • Develop skills to identify negative habits and replace them with healthy choices
  • Feel less drawn to making unhealthy choices
  • Heal trauma
  • Live more peacefully and with more balance

In upcoming posts, I will touch on other aspects related to Internal Family Systems Therapy. But, for now, you likely have some questions. Hence, I want to invite you to have a thorough look over my site. I’ve been working with psychotherapy clients using IFS for over a two decades now. Let’s connect for a free and confidential consultation.

IFS Therapy is a powerful method for taking back control of your life and living more connected to your core Self. I’d love to guide you on this journey and look forward to hearing from you soon.