Internal Family Systems (IFS) - Parts of You

Updated: Nov 15, 2019


Focusing on your strengths is a way to develop resiliency. Resiliency has been determined to be an important factor in healing from many traumatic events. Therapies that use a strengths based or non-pathologizing model (meaning you focus on what is right with you not what is “wrong” with you) have been helpful for clients. You are not broken. You are human.


One of those therapy models is Internal Family Systems (IFS). IFS was developed by Richard Schwartz, Ph.D. You can get more information on this therapy model by visiting www.selfleadership.org. From the website: “IFS [is a] model of psychotherapy [that] offers a clear, non-pathologizing, and empowering method of understanding human problems, as well as an innovative and enriching philosophy of practice that invites both therapist and client to enter into a transformational relationship in which healing can occur.”


Edited from the IFS skills training manual:


  • IFS focuses on the different things that are going on inside of us, we call them parts. Those parts are related to what you talk about in therapy and your regular life.


  • You have parts of you that may feel anxiety and depression and, also, parts that feel joy and excitement. Those are your Exile parts. Exiles are parts of you that want to be safe and are vulnerable to experiencing pain, but they can also experience joy. You have parts that are there to help you; Protector parts. Protector parts keep you safe from rejection, failure, disappointment and other uncomfortable feelings and experiences. The Protector parts, also, keep your Exiles from experiencing, joy, happiness, new experiences, and other growth opportunities.


  • Example: You have been struggling with keeping healthy routines in you life. A part of you may want to go out and exercise. Another part says that you should complete other tasks first; household chores, run errands, or watch one more episode of that show you’re binge watching. So, time goes by during the day and you end up not exercising. That part of you that wanted to exercise feels guilty. The other part of you says “Don’t feel that way. You’ll exercise another day.” That “another day” of exercise doesn’t happen for the same reasons. The cycle continues. In therapy, you would explore this cycle, name your parts and find out what each part wants.


In therapy you can explore, discover and name your parts. You can embrace your parts by saying “I’m glad you showed up. What do you want me to know?” You might be amazed at what they have to tell you.


Nate


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