What is IFS (Internal Family Systems)?
Internal Family Systems is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on a client’s internal “parts” and “Self.” In IFS, the mind is considered to be naturally made up of multiple sub-personalities or families within each individual’s mental system. These sub-personalities take on different roles, such as an inner critic or inner child, and consist of wounded parts and painful feelings like anger and shame.5
The goal of IFS is to help clients access Self so that they can heal wounded parts and bring their minds into balance. IFS is an evidence-based practice used to treat a range of mental health disorders including anxiety, depression, PTSD, substance abuse, and eating disorders.
- It is the nature of the mind to be subdivided into an indeterminate number of subpersonalities or parts.
- Everyone has a Self, and the Self can and should lead the individual’s internal system.
- The non-extreme intention of each part is something positive for the individual. There are no “bad” parts, and the goal of therapy is not to eliminate parts but instead to help them find their non-extreme roles.
- As we develop, our parts develop and form a complex system of interactions among themselves; therefore, systems theory can be applied to the internal system. When the system is reorganized, parts can change rapidly.
- Changes in the internal system will affect changes in the external system and vice versa. The implication of this assumption is that both the internal and external levels of system should be assessed.
OVERALL GOALS OF THERAPY
- To achieve balance and harmony within the internal system.
- To differentiate and elevate the Self so it can be an effective leader in the system.
- When the Self is in the lead, the parts will provide input to the Self but will respect the leadership and ultimate decision making of the Self.
- All parts will exist and lend talents that reflect their non-extreme intentions.