The Internal Family System is a theory that individuals cannot be fully understood in isolation from the family unit. The family in question, however, is one’s internal family, or sub-personas. By learning how all the different parts of you function as one Self, you can identify which parts of you are causing conflict in your life. An Internal Family System Therapist can help you learn to manage these parts of yourself to continue growing as a person.
What is Internal Family Systems Therapy?
Internal Family Systems (IFS) is a type of therapy that addresses your sub-personas (or families) within each person’s mental system. These sub-personas are typically wounded parts and painful emotions, such as anger or shame. The sub-personas are often in conflict with each other, thus dividing the core self. IFS focuses on healing your inner child and restoring the mental harmony of the Self.
The IFS model includes 3 basic assumptions:
- Each person has a Self, and the Self should manage to the coordination of the inner family
- There is no such thing as a “bad part” of a person’s sub-personas
- Personal growth leads to the development of the inner family
What IFS is Used For?
IFS is used to treat individuals, couples, and families. It is a heavily researched, and evidence-based approach that has been shown to be effective for treating a variety of conditions. Some of these conditions include:
- Trauma, such as PTSD or Complex PTSD
- Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
- Compulsive behaviors
- Depression, Anxiety, and other mental health concerns
- Body image issues
- Anger Management
- Substance abuse or dependency
What to Expect from an IFS Therapist
An IFS session may take the form of talk therapy. However, an Internal Family Systems Therapist may also choose to focus on a person’s internal environment in order to connect the different parts to the self. The goal is to identify which part of the self continues to engage in harmful behaviors. The focus is on a person’s internal environment. The therapist will often encourage you to “turn down the volume” of any fear, hatred, disgust, or shame felt towards the part of the self, in order to clearly hear what it has to say.
IFS Techniques and Exercises
In IFS, you will work to understand your inner self through simple exercises and techniques. Depending on what you and your therapist agree on, many of them may involve deep breathing to promote mental clarity and relaxation. In addition, some other common techniques are:
- Diagraming your inner relationships
- The Room Technique
- Getting to know whoever is within you
- Feeling one’s heart – is your heart emotionally open or closed?
The Internal Family System theory is the idea that you cannot be understood by someone else until you learn how your inner personas work together as one. An Internal Family Systems Therapist works to help you identify which part of yourself is causing conflict in your life. You will practice identifying why you do the things you do, and map the correlation between how part of you feels and the decisions you make. In IFS, you and your therapist will come up with a system in order to bring all your multiple personas together, so they can work in harmony with yourself.
Family Strategies Counseling and Mediation is a child and family therapy office located in Homewood, IL. We offer mental health counseling, couples counseling, anger management, and child therapy. See our about page to see which of our therapists are currently booking in-person and online appointments.