The core approach I use is IFS Therapy (Internal Family Systems), which was created by Dr. Richard Schwartz more than 30 years ago. A basic premise of this model is the understanding that we are not one single personality, but rather we have many parts of us that can think, feel and act independently. For example, you may have a part of you that wants to speak up about something and another part that thinks it’s better to keep quiet. You may have an inner critic. You may have a part that gets really angry, and another that feels guilty later. We all have an inner child (usually many inner children).
Internal Family Systems is not a family therapy, but rather a way of working with this internal family of parts. It can be used with individuals, couples and families, though I personally only work with individuals.
In IFS Therapy “All Parts are Welcome.” As we get to know them, we realize that every part has value and good intentions, even when they end up causing problems in our lives. When parts are causing problems it is typically because of the burdens they carry (e.g. beliefs about themselves, difficult feelings, trauma). For some parts, these burdens are painful feelings and beliefs that they hold. For others, it is extreme roles they have been forced into to protect us.
From this perspective, we do not view difficulties as diseases or disorders, but rather as the behavior of parts that are doing the best they can to protect us from being hurt.
In IFS we work on building relationships with each of our parts. This often allows them to trust us more and behave in less extreme ways. We learn to understand the concerns of our protector parts and over time we get their permission to work with the vulnerable “exile” parts they protect. Usually when exiled parts heal and release the burdens they are carrying, the protectors are able to let go of their previous roles and contribute to our system in new ways.
Underneath the sometimes chaotic experience of our parts, we each have a Self – a part that is not a part. When we have access to our Self, we experience the following “8 C’s”:
The IFS model recognizes that these qualities are at the core of who we are. As we release burdens in our system, our parts are able to relax and let us connect to Self more of the time.
For additional information about the IFS model, check out the following resources: