Internal Family Systems
Internal family systems, or IFS, is an increasingly sought after and recognised psychotherapeutic approach to supporting healing and transformation.
WHAT IS IT?
Developed by professor Richard Schwartz, it understands and approaches the person as a system of interconnected parts, parts which have formed during the experiences and challenges of our lives, and which carry differing stories, needs, desires, purposes and intentions. Amidst these parts and distinct from them, it conceives of a ‘Self’ that is undamaged and knows how to support and enable the healing of the whole person.
IFS enables transformation and healing by supporting us to access and come into a more understanding relationship with these various parts and aspects of our experience, particularly the protective and wounded parts. It supports and builds connectedness, helping the client to first access their sense of the undamaged Self, and, from that core basis, come to welcome, understand, heal and integrate their parts, releasing whatever is held in the system but no longer of service.
Not only does IFS support us to overcome the pain and difficulty we may be facing in our lives, but this increased inner connectivity directly correlates with the capacity for connection with the world and others, enabling a growing stability, openness, appreciation, wellbeing and enjoyment of life. It helps us to be in a fuller, deeper, healthier and happier relationship with the complexity and diversity of who we are and has been growing in popularity and prominence because of how positive and effective people are finding it, the world over.
You can read more about the approach here.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT IN SESSIONS?
In terms of form, this is predominantly a so-called ‘talking therapy’ but it draws on the body, imagery, intuition and sensing as a basis, much more than theoretical discussion and analysis. Although there is an important place for gaining perspective on experience through more cognitive inquiry, the basis of IFS occurs in our building the capacity to sense, feel and ‘listen’ to what is present in the body of our experience, in the moment.
In sessions, I will encourage and support you to notice the range of voices, perspectives, emotions, needs and sensations that are likely to be present in response to whatever the challenge is you are wanting to work with, and particularly to enable the ‘Exiled’ parts - parts that have had to remain hidden for reasons of protection or self preservation - to come into awareness.
This is a delicate process, but one that can have profound effects on clients, at its best, producing a deeply transforming experience of unburdening. My years of work as a trauma therapist (see Somatic Experiencing) have put me in a nuanced and experienced position to be able to work sensitively with the kinds of exiled parts and material that can/may come up with this kind of work.