Have you ever said heard yourself saying something like, “Part of me feels like… But then another part of me thinks… Then, before I know it, yet another part of me jumps in and does…” Internal family systems theory takes this common way of describing ourselves as comprised of many different parts seriously. Pushing against the notion of a person as a single unified entity, IFS theory instead encourage us to conceptualize ourselves as made of many distinct parts, each thinking and feeling and wanting different things. In working with clients through this lens, founder Richard Schwartz made an important discovery that forms the basis of IFS therapy: that we can not only talk about our parts, we can talk to and with them. When first introduced to this way of relating to their internal world, my clients are sometimes confused when I direct them to ask a part something and they actually receive a response, and often one that is surprising and unexpected. In this way, IFS techniques have a way of unlocking doors of the psyche that endless hours of talk therapy can’t seem to get at. Not only this, IFS techniques allow us to move beyond insight into how and why we are hurting, providing a process for healing those parts of us that need more than just our conscious awareness.
Basic Introductions to IFS Therapy
To learn more about IFS theory and therapy, you can view the video below of Richard Schwartz describing it in his own words, or you can read the description of the model on the PyschologyToday website.
I am partial to this brief (10 min) introduction to IFS by Derek Scott, a leading IFS trainer in Canada and founder of the Internal Family Systems Counseling Association (https://ifsca.ca/), which is where I received my IFS training and supervision.
In-Depth Overviews of IFS
For a more in-depth introduction to the modality, including a demonstration of a therapist working with a client, these episodes from the “Relationship Alive” podcast provide a helpful orientation to IFS:
- Episode 26: How to get all the parts within you to work together – basic intro (1:09:37)
- Episode 140: Mastering the Art of Inner Transformation – includes a helpful demonstration of a therapist working with a client (1:20:14)
IFS Resources for Home Practice
Exploring Your Own System
Once you know the basic ideas of IFS, this is a great 3-part series by Derek Scott (of ifsca.ca) that teaches people how to work with their own system outside of therapy sessions.