🔮What is Internal Family Systems therapy?

With IFS, our intention is to leverage the power of imagination to narratively explore the mind. Seeing different aspects of our mind as “parts” gives us the ability to understand, engage with, and ultimately transform our internal dynamics, fostering self-awareness, emotional healing, and growth.

How we approach the work

We approach the exploration with the assumption that even the “worst” of our parts (that make us self-loathe, anxious, depressed, addicted, violent, or judgmental) are just trying to protect us from pain. By connecting with these parts from a place of curiosity and compassion, we gain deeper insight into the underlying wounds, traumas, and unmet needs that have shaped these protective responses.

We gently work through layers of defenses and resistances, lovingly persuading the parts to let go, so that we can help the parts that are carrying the burden of the painful feelings and beliefs weighing us down.

Interacting with Parts

There are no rules for how you can relate with yourself. Allow for creativity and let your heart take the lead.

You can interact or communicate with your parts through (a combination of):

  • Words / Thoughts / Inner voices

  • Body sensations / movements

  • Images / Visuals / Memories

Simply listening to the parts with attention and respect, validating their point of view, and appreciating them goes a long way towards winning their trust.

If a part refuses to let go or open up to you, it’s usually an indication that something is unheard (or unfelt) or the part doesn’t feel safe. In that situation, check if you’re able to hold a empathetic space for the part and then invite the part to express more.

Handling Resistance

When we attempt to explore the scary and painful areas of our mind, we will inevitably experience resistance in different forms. Any form of “resistance” or “difficulty” can potentially be seen as just another part trying to protect you.

The more deeply you allow a part’s fears or hurt to be felt in your body, the more you create a bridge between conscious awareness and the hidden realms of your mind.

If you can approach the resisting parts with curiosity, hear them out and make them feel understood, they will gladly step aside, more often than not.

Engaging with the Process

If you find yourself rushing or overriding or intellectualizing or pushing through or coercing, you might be blended in with another part trying to “help” you. Unblending from this part and gently persuading them to let go will lead to more ease and connection.

Sometimes, it could feel like the exploration is going nowhere. Remember, self-discovery is a non-linear process. Staying patient and curious will inevitably lead you to interesting parts of your mind.

It’s easy to get distracted or distract ourselves, especially without another human holding space for you. Be lovingly vigilant of any impulses to escape.

This interview with the founder of IFS (Richard Schwartz) and Tim Ferriss provides a fantastic overview, & includes a live demo. Video starts at 3:58!

17-minute overview by the founder, Richard Schwartz.

This video provides a great overview and is well structured.

In this video, Richard Schwartz demonstrates an IFS session.

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