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Internal Family Systems Therapy: How it Works

Do you believe that a person can have more than one side? It can be easy to view people as binary, either all good or all bad. The truth is there are good and bad qualities in a lot of people. The important thing is that when life gives us a bad hand, we do not let the bad parts of ourselves consume us.

Internal Family Systems (IFS) is a type of therapy that allows us to examine ourselves and others as multifaceted beings. We have a combination of healthy and unhealthy roles we play in our lives. IFS therapy aims to discover yourself and bring all of these parts together. This is the right kind of therapy if you have anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, and other disorders.

By understanding the three types of roles you have as well as the six-step process, you can see how IFS is an effective and transformative form of therapy.

The Three Main Parts

The firefighter parts protect you when a trigger arises. You could be reminded of a painful memory just by listening to a song or seeing an object of something familiar. In order to prevent this memory from forming, you commit unhealthy methods to take the pain away.

The manager parts help you manage situations to avoid these triggers from occurring again. For example, you could change your route to work in order to avoid the road where you got in a car accident.

The exile parts can seem like the worst thing to go through. They will leave you flooding with memories and trauma, which the firefighter and the manager parts try to fight off.

Step One – Find

You will first be asked to stay in the present moment through meditation. You will see your body’s sensations as you determine what part you will work on. The mind and the body work together. You will understand what your body is doing by allowing your mind to become clear.

photo of a woman standing on a busy sidewalk at nightStep Two – Focus

Once you identify if you are experiencing a firefighter, manager, or exile, focus on it. Be patient with yourself and see this part for what it really is.

Step Three – Flesh Out

Once you focus on your part, it is time to flesh it out. See what you can learn about this part. Try to analyze the emotions behind the part and if it represents you at a certain age. Knowing all you can about your part will help you in the healing process.

Step Four – Feelings

After getting to know your part, see how you feel about it. Depending on the emotions your present to your therapist, this will help them see how big or small this part is to you.

Step Five – Acceptance

It can be difficult to achieve an understanding of your part and how it affects your life. You need to accept that this particular part exists in you. However, it does not mean you have to keep it.

Step Six – Fear

In the final step, you will discover what it is about this part that makes you afraid of it. Ask yourself what your part could be afraid of not being in your life.

By the end of this therapy, you will be able to improve your fears, anxiety, panic, and other disorders you may have. You will become much more self-reliant and learn more about yourself than you ever have before. If you would like to learn more about IFS therapy, speak to us for guidance throughout this process.