Often, people come to therapy describing internal struggles that IFS expresses in the language of ‘parts’. For example, one part of you may feel crippled by anxiety. Another part of you may be quite judgemental about that and say “This is ridiculous! Just get over it!”. IFS sees our ‘parts’ as inherently helpful, but that during our life journey they have had to adapt their roles to support us during times of difficulty (especially, but not exclusively in childhood). Parts may also carry legacy adaptations that we inherited from our culture or family of origin. Confusion and suffering tend to result when our functioning seems to be ‘taken over’ in unhelpful or extreme ways, or where we experience deep inner conflict. This typically happens where previously adaptive survival mechanisms may no longer be serving us in our lives now.
The aim of Internal Family Systems Therapy is to help individuals and couples find a different way of relating to these parts of themselves. This involves getting to know our more reactive parts from a curious and compassionate perspective. Generally our parts have a story to tell about why they are stuck in a role that no longer serves us well as a whole person. By approaching these parts with respect and open-heartedness, we can learn to listen to the fears, hopes and beliefs that motivate them and healing can begin to take place. As our parts gain confidence that we are no longer the vulnerable person we once were, we can establish a relationship of greater trust (or Self-leadership in IFS-speak), encouraging these parts torelax and take on more helpful roles in our lives. Through IFS work, we can start to feel more confident about approaching our internal conflicts with clarity, creativity and courage rather than fear and confusion.
Since Internal Family Systems Therapy is becoming very popular and respected, there are plenty of resources online that can give you a taste for this type of therapy. The originator of this therapy form, Dr. Richard Schwartz, has many YouTube videos with meditations. Also Derek Scott has many educational videos aimed at therapists and also videos aimed at teaching people how to explore their own system.
If you are curious towards this type of therapy, please get in touch.