Internal family systems (IFS) therapy is a form of therapy that focuses on the reality that each of us contains many psychological parts. Our foundation, of course, is the Self. But this can be overwhelmed and overshadowed by other “sub-personalities.” For example, “exiles” carry our trauma and pain. When exiles attain prominence, other parts — “Managers” and “Firefighters” — spring into action to suppress them.
All of this jousting and juggling is meant with good intentions. Your internal family is trying to protect you from pain. However, ignoring root issues will only make things worse. That’s where IFS therapy steps up to the plate to address many different conditions and problems.
What Is IFS Therapy Commonly Used For?
IFS therapy can be applied quite widely. To give you a taste of that versatility, let’s look at three common issues and how IFS is used:
1. Trauma/ Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
When someone is struggling with the impact of trauma, they may feel like trauma is the only factor shaping their lives. However, an IFS therapist will help them identify which of their parts are carrying the painful memories, sensations, and feelings. This approach guides us away from solely focusing on the fear created by trauma.
IFS therapy helps us identify where the trauma lives, so to speak. Quite often, we’re talking about physical sensations that can be addressed. These exiles represent the leftover energy of the traumatic experience. So, in the name of horning the Core Self, your IFS therapist assists you in aligning your sub-personalities so the trauma can finally be fully processed and resolved.
A major part of IFS therapy for anxiety involves observation without judgment. Replace judging with curiosity. When you sense panic and worry about emerging, explore what is happening on the inside. Here’s a little idea of how they might look and feel:
- In a setting with minimal distractions, visualize yourself observing what your mind and body are doing when an anxious episode commences.
- Don’t try to change the process; do your best not to judge yourself.
- You will undoubtedly realize how challenging it is to observe without judgment. When you feel your inner critic about speaking up, slip back into observer mode.
- Begin identifying which of your parts is a) causing anxiety and b) judging yourself for it.
Once you can separate those parts from the rest of you, you can find useful, sustainable solutions.
3. Low Self-Esteem
Perhaps you find yourself feeling stuck due to low confidence. Maybe you’re always comparing yourself to others. There are so many ways low self-esteem can manifest, e.g.
- Imposter syndrome
- People pleasing
- Never feel that you are enough
- Controlling behaviors
- Relentless inner critic
- Uncle to set and enforce boundaries
- Feeling like a misfit
IFS therapy approaches these all-too-common issues with a perspective that you have no “bad” parts. Your Self, exiles, managers, firefighters, and more aren’t flawed. They just need to work together as a cohesive team.
You may have years or decades of internalizing the judgments of others. Your IFS therapist is here to help you find ways to look inward to find some truly good news about yourself. For example, a part of you might be behaving with self-esteem in a misguided attempt to protect yourself.
IFS Therapy Has Many, Many More Applications
From depression to physical ailments, from substance abuse to personality disorders and well beyond, IFS therapy can bring relief to people in so many ways. At first, the premise may seem odd. Over time, it will become quite apparent that you are making some serious progress on the path toward healing and recovery. Let’s connect and talk about IFS therapy soon.