What is IFS?
Internal Family Systems, or IFS, is an evidence based model that offers a revolutionary approach to psychotherapy.
IFS therapy is a way to meet yourself, in all your multiplicity.
In IFS the mind is seen as naturally and inherently multiple. A central principle of IFS is that we all have self, the core part of our psyche that is whole and cannot be damaged, and which knows how to heal us. Around self we have a multitude of parts in different roles, and those parts all have good intentions for us.
Perhaps due to difficult experiences in life some of your parts are stuck in extreme roles. For example the internal critic who constantly berates you for making ‘mistakes’. In IFS all parts are welcome and in therapy we work to meet those parts.
As the therapist support and guide you in this work. Helping you to foster the connection between your self and your parts to allow healing, understanding, and growth. For example, when that inner critic is met with curiosity, and we can understand that it had to take on this role to protect a younger you from school bullies, we can see the positive intent. When we can update this part on the life you lead now, and show it that it doesn’t have to keep you safe like this any more, it can learn to relax.
In IFS we believe that the natural state of being human is to be multiple. If we can say “a part of me is lazy” rather than “I am lazy” then we allow for one of the ways we feel and what we think not to define us, and it gives the ability to speak to this part and understand it, rather than what often happens when we shame and dismiss our less ‘acceptable’ parts. If we can say a part of me wants to get better, and another part is afraid, we can see the dualities we live with every day, and work with those, not against them.
As a psychotherapist what attracted me to IFS was exactly this non-pathologising, non-shaming way of working with our complex inner worlds.
Too often I would see a client steeped in shame and unable to get away from an intense belief about themselves, I would want to be able to give them hope, or help them to see that this was not all of them . IFS gives me that tool, and a way to see that one facet of you, is not all of you.
IFS allows me to work with clients struggling with many issues where parts are pitted against each other, like disordered eating, self harm, and substance abuse issues, without further shaming them, and in a way that allows them to get to know the part that binges, the part that starves, or the part that says “just one drink will be fine”. IFS also allows me to do deep work with a client’s past experiences, being able to see the parts of them that were hurt, or took on extreme beliefs, and allowing the client’s self to connect with these parts and to heal them.
I am continually amazed by the power of the work, and the changes that can occur once a client’s attention is tuned in to their internal world. Like any good therapy, IFS is not a quick fix solution, but the results are clear in my practice, and in the evidence base.
IFS has been shown to be highly effective in managing many presenting issues in clients, from chronic pain, to the effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), to eating disorders, and trauma to name but a few.
Unlike some forms of psychotherapy, IFS is a model of therapy that welcomes all, without prejudice, seeing all identities as equal and valid. It is a model that is LGBTQ*+ informed and aware, and a model that embraces the realities of inequality and difference, without reinforcing them.
You can find out more here: https://ifs-institute.com/