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Internal Family Systems (IFS)

IFS is a form of relational therapy developed by Richard Schwartz. It is helpful with most all presenting problems, especially trauma related distress.

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Richard Schwartz is the founder of IFS. His professional background is working as a systemic family therapist. He developed IFS in response to working with client’s parts and acknowledging the multiplicity of the mind as natural rather than pathological. IFS is based upon the belief that everyone has many parts or subpersonalities. These parts operate within each person in a systematic way. All parts have good intentions as described in Dr Schwartz’s book, No Bad Parts. Dr. Schwartz identifies different types of parts; naturally occurring healthy parts, managers, firefighters, and exiles. These parts serve different purposes within a person’s system.

Healthy parts hold the career interests, relational skills, or hobbies such as helper, good listener, photography, woodworking, painter, athlete, engineer and/or therapist. These parts hold the desire and motivation to do/be these roles in life.

Managers are protector parts that have been created within the system with a motto of “Never again”. These parts work often work around the clock to prevent reexperiencing pain that a person experienced in their past. These parts can be Avoidant, Perfectionistic, Obsessive, Compulsive and/or manifest a multitude of other characteristics.

Firefighters are protector parts that help soothe the internal system when new trauma occurs and when Manger parts become exhausted and can no longer hold off feeling the pain of past or current trauma.  Firefighter parts can be dissociative, alcoholic, substance addictive, eating disordered, or acquire other means to stop/numb the pain from continuing overwhelming the system.   

Exile parts are wounded parts that have been disconnected or protected by being walled off because they hold the burden of extreme emotions/beliefs typically pain/shame created by the past or current hurt/trauma. These parts can be holding pain from childhood of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, neglect or betrayal by a parent, sibling, friend, or spouse. Exiles can hold legacy burdens. These are burdens that have been passed down through generations. Legacy burdens could be explicit or implicit such as a family not showing one another affection or cultural burdens such as poverty or racism.    

Each of these parts need connection with what Dr. Schwartz calls the “Core Self”. When parts are approached internally and/or by a therapist using the structure of the 6Fs (Find, Focus, Flesh out, Feel towards, Befriend, Fears) to core-self energy through the eight Cs (Compassion, Curiosity, Courage, Creativity, Calm, Clarity, Connectedness, Confidence) or the 5 P’s (Playfulness, Perspective, Patience, Persistence, Perseverance). Dr. Schwartz found in developing and following this process the parts begin to relax, feel heard and eventually can be healed.

 An organization called Syzygy was co-founded by Bruce Hersey, LCSW, and Michelle Richardson, LCSW. They are two passionate and experienced IFS-Informed EMDR Therapists, Consultants and Trainers. Syzygy combines the use of IFS and another world renowned, empirically based trauma therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). At BMPC we have found using the Syzygy model in combination with neurofeedback brings the optimal potential for healing. Click here to meet our IFS-informed, Syzygy trained and Neurofeedback trained clinicians.    

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