Internal Family Systems Therapy

Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS), developed by Richard Schwartz, PhD in the 1990’s, is a non-pathologizing, evidence-based model of therapy. Richard Schwartz applied the teachings of Family Systems Theory and the idea of “multiplicity of mind” to the individual. While other theories work with multiple parts or subpersonalities of the individual, Dr. Schwartz took this a step further. He focused on how the different parts of a person can work together or against one another and how they can become more integrated, understood, and led by the Self. IFS works with the internal family (made up of different parts of the person – a family of parts) that exists within each of us. The basic assumption of the model is that everyone possesses a core Self which is untarnished and from which flows a never-ending resource of love and self-compassion.

To understand how IFS works, think about how you may feel like one part of you wants to do something (like work on a project), while another part wants to do something else (for example, something more fun or relaxing). Parts of ourselves can be helpful (for example, a part that helps us stay on task and get things done or a part that can be effective in social situations) or they can feel maladaptive, such as a part that gets very angry too quickly, a part that shuts down, or a part that abuses substances. We may also have parts of ourselves that we don’t want to deal with which seem to carry hurt, sadness, shame, or other painful feelings.

IFS is a gentle, respectful, and collaborative method for looking at our internal system of parts, understanding how they work together, and relieving the pain and burdens we carry to live happier and more effective lives. Clients come to understand themselves more deeply, unburden negative beliefs about themselves, and access their internal resource of Self, leading to great shifts in self-regard and well-being.
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