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  • Writer's pictureAmy Duffy-Barnes

Exploring Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapy


Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy is a unique approach to psychotherapy. Developed by author and therapist Richard Schwartz, IFS is based on the idea that each person is made up of multiple parts or "sub-personalities", each with its own motivations, functions, and goals. All of these parts of the psyche work together to form a larger, integrated system.


IFS is focused on the belief that each part of our personality has positive intentions. No part of the system is deliberately trying to hurt the system. Instead of trying to suppress or deny the existence of our 'negative' parts, IFS encourages us to embrace them and work with them for growth and healing.


The goal of IFS is to help individuals gain insight and understanding into their own behavior and thought patterns. This insight can help them become better at resolving inner conflicts and be more aware of the motivations and functions driving their behaviors.


Through IFS, an individual is encouraged to connect with what Schwartz calls their "true self". This is the part of the individual that is connected to the external world but is also deeply connected to their own sense of inner peace and self-compassion. When the system is controlled by the self instead of random parts it functions in a much more balanced, grounded, and healthy way.


Schwartz believes that the self has eight characteristics; calmness, compassion, creativity, confidence, connection, curiosity, courage, and clarity. The actual self is not judgemental and it can balance and create space for difficult emotions. The goals of IFS are to separate and understand parts and their functions and to find the true self.


When engaging in IFS therapy, individuals can explore several techniques to help them gain insight into the inner dynamics of their psyche. One of the most common techniques is to identify and visualize each part as a person or entity, then communicate with that part to understand the underlying motivations behind their behaviors.


Another technique involves creating a timeline of events from the past to the present, then exploring the feelings and motivations associated with each event. This can help individuals to gain a better understanding of how their behavior has been shaped over time.


Individuals can also engage in guided meditations in order to identify with and connect with their true selves and gain insight into the motivations and functions of various parts. Overall, IFS provides individuals with invaluable insight into their own behaviors, thought patterns, and motivations. By embracing and understanding our inner parts and the positive intentions behind them, we can become better at resolving our inner conflicts and accessing our true selves.

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