What is Internal Family Systems (IFS)?

Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapy was developed by Richard Schwartz in the 1990s after he began hearing clients speak about inner parts within themselves. He looks at these parts as an internal family in the mind, where some parts have certain goals while other parts have other goals. Each part has its own likes, dislikes, burdens, and history and is thought to play a role in achieving self-preservation. Parts have healthy, productive or extreme roles and those with extreme roles may benefit from therapy.

There is a Self that is the seat of consciousness at the core of each person. The Self is often hidden by the different parts, especially the extreme or wounded parts which are trying to protect it. The goal is to unburden those parts and create a trusted, healthy, harmonious internal system that is coordinated by the Self.

Internal Family Systems is an evidence-based practice and has been found to be effective for the improvement of general and mental well-being. It can be used to treat:

  • Trauma
  • Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • Compulsive behaviours
  • Depression
  • Bipolar
  • Body Image issues
  • Anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Substance dependency
  • Chronic pain

Internal Family Systems can be used to understand why certain behaviours keep happening and for more extreme behaviours (substance dependency, self-harm) figure out if those behaviours are still needed and what could be done instead. Some of the parts may be living in the past when the circumstances were different and Internal Family Systems can be used to bring those parts into the present where those extreme behaviours are not needed anymore. Internal Family Systems can be a powerful tool to work with trauma, especially developmental trauma.

Further Reading

IFS Institute https://ifs-institute.com

This website is the official website for the practice of Internal Family Systems. It has resources, ways to find a formally trained IFS therapist, training and learning options, information about the theory, and research about IFS.

Please note that I receive a commission if you make purchases through the link below. I am part of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.

No Bad Parts – Richard Schwartz

https://amzn.to/3NwR81r

This is a book written by the founder of Internal Family Systems, Richard Schwartz, for the general public. It explains the IFS theory and why it works for trauma and other struggles. It also includes techniques and exercises.

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