Internal Family Systems

Internal Family Systems (IFS) coaching seeks to explore how your various parts are organized and create greater harmony and balance within the internal system

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Internal family systems  (IFS) is an evidence-based approach that was founded in the early 1980s by Richard C. Swartz. This therapeutic modality is widely used to help individuals who are struggling with a variety of mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression, as well as overcome uncomfortable and unwanted behaviors and emotions that stem from traumatic experiences. 


As humans, we are complex and multi-faceted. IFS believes that we hold multiple ‘parts’ that speak to our experiences, emotions, sensations, thoughts, and behaviors. The various ‘parts’ develop into a complex system of interactions. The more we get to know these ‘parts’ of ourselves the more we can become aligned with what is called Self or Self energy in IFS. Our core Self is where we are able to find healing, repair, and become an integrated whole.


IFS aims to give a voice to all ‘parts’ in order to attend to unmet needs and help the Self make mindful and intentional decisions to lead the way. In order to help the Self begin to experience freedom and personal agency, IFS practitioners help individuals work through various steps to attend to ‘parts’ that are creating difficulty or challenges in a person’s life. 


The various ‘parts’ that exist for people include exiles, protectors, and managers. Each ‘part’ serves a purpose to protect the Self and our ‘parts’ can clash, at times. That is what separates the Self from our ‘parts’. The Self always feels positively towards the ‘parts’. It is quite normal for parts to feel afraid of one other, angry at one another, or disappointed by one another. When ‘parts’ feel this way they may become critical, judgmental, and even induce anxiety in each other. The Self does not use these tactics. The Self has unconditional positive regard towards all ‘parts’ and provides attention, care, and compassion to every ‘part’. 


There are key indicators of each ‘part’ that helps IFS practitioners to notice which ‘part’ is most present in any given moment.  Exiles often contain fear, shame, guilt, loneliness, and grief. ‘Firefighters’ shows up as obsessions, compulsions, distractions, dissociation, or self-harming behaviors. ‘Managers’ embody self-criticism, planning, care-taking, judging, striving, and controlling. 


A very important piece of IFS work is relinquishing the exiles from old painful emotions and traumatic experiences. To engage in this process a practitioner will walk you through the steps of contacting the exile, witnessing, reparenting, retrieving, unburdening, and integrating. These steps help people to become non-judgmentally curious, hold space, cultivate compassion, and honor whatever painful memories or emotions are coming up. 


IFS is for anyone and everyone. If you are interested in healing pieces of you that are feeling burdened, triggered, anxious, depressed, or out of control, this modality may be a wonderful fit for you to begin healing the ‘parts’ of you that are needing to be attended to.


Internal Family Systems

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