You are thinking about starting IFS therapy. Perhaps you have tried other forms of talk therapy. Maybe this is your first time meeting with a counselor. Whatever the specifics are, Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapy will be a unique and powerful experience. Simply put, IFS is designed to acknowledge that each individual is made up of a Self — along with countless sub-personalities. These “parts” of you can work in wonderful synchronicity.
However, there are times when your internal parts are not aligned with your core Self. The dysfunction is probably due to self-protection, but it still requires that this family of parts be brought back into synch. Your IFS therapist is here to help you make that happen.
How to Prepare for IFS Therapy
A crucial part of IFS therapy is the identification of which of your parts, or sub-personalities requires attention. Of course, you will be guided through this process, but it can be immensely helpful to do some contemplating in advance. A few thoughts to keep in mind:
- Ask yourself why you’ve decided to try IFS therapy in the first place. Name the reasons, emotions, and behaviors that led you to ask for help.
- When listing those reasons, emotions, and behaviors, ask yourself if any of them seem to be particularly in need of your focus. If this feels unclear, it’s fine. In your session, you can talk about this kind of work and begin developing the skills needed to perform such a self-check.
- Make another list. This one would be centered on what you hope to accomplish via IFS therapy.
- Tune into your core Self. What this requires is for you to set the intention that your internal system wants to be running smoothly. Your therapist is a skilled guide. But your core Self is the center point of this work.
All of this can be helpful, but guess what? It’s not required. There’s a reasonably good chance that you’ve sought out this kind of therapy precisely because you have trouble grounding yourself. Let your therapist know and they will be ready to help ground you in the early sessions. There is no “correct” way to prepare, but the suggestions listed are certainly worth pondering.
Some Conversations to Expect
Needless to say, your IFS therapist will be happy to explain as much as you wish to know about the approach. Still, this is not always necessary. Too much theory can lead to overthinking. Overthinking is another way your different parts can gum up the work. So, yes, ask questions and/or do your own research. But, more importantly, be ready to connect with and express your emotions. This can manifest in discussions about:
- Ongoing behaviors
- The feelings connected to these behaviors
- How do you cope with feelings and behaviors that are less than ideal?
Fundamental conversations like this serve to:
- Help your therapist learn more about you
- Deepen your own connection to how your parts of currently interacting
Remember, parts like “firefighters,” “exiles,” and “managers” are probably going to try highjacking the process. They do this with a misguided desire to help. In the presence of an experienced therapist, you can evade these traps and make serious progress.
Starting IFS Therapy: What’s Next?
You’ve laid a strong foundation in your first session. You broke the ice and got a feel for what IFS Therapy feels like. Ideally, you have begun the critical work of differentiating between your sub-parts and your greater Self. All of this work makes it much easier to prepare for ensuing sessions. Outside of the therapy room, you become more adept at recognizing different parts.
IFS Therapy is an effective approach for a wide range of issues. In the hands of a seasoned mental health clinician, it’s often a life transforming approach. I’d love to speak with you soon and tell you more!