Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapy

In my latest podcast and youtube show with Therapy Talks, I had on a clinical psychologist from my home state of Pennsylvania to share about the trendy therapeutic approach, Internal Family Systems therapy, or IFS. I love being a clinical supervisor and working with graduate students and mentoring licensed therapists as we dive into the different modalities and case consultations. What an honour! I hope that as you listen to this podcast or watch along on youtube below that this perspective encourages you and breeds curiosity, as there are “no bad parts” about any of us 😉

This week on Therapy Talks we step into the realm of therapeutic exploration as our guest, Dr. Bethany Detwiler, guides us through the intricacies of Internal Family Systems (IFS)—a model that views symptoms as parts of oneself rather than stigmatized issues. We discuss the role of the “self” as an innate, essential aspect that may become obscured by protective parts. Our guest advocates for befriending and understanding these protective parts to access and heal exiled, wounded aspects, providing listeners with practical tools for their own therapeutic journeys.

In this Episode:

Learn the significance in understanding and healing protective and wounded aspects within individuals.Explore the importance of tailoring sessions through the lens of IFS, where clients actively engage in co-creating their therapeutic journey.Gain valuable insights into practical IFS techniques, such as befriending protective parts and understanding inner child work.Practical tips for both therapists and clients engaging in IFS, including creative visualization techniques. Shed light on the growing trend of inner child work, fueled by social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok.

Dr. Bethany Detwiler, a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania, holds an M.Ed. and PhD in Counseling Psychology from Lehigh University. Completing their doctoral internship at the University of Pennsylvania counseling center, Dr. Detwiler is a credentialed PSYPACT provider, extending telehealth services to clients across the majority of US states. They also contribute as an adjunct professor in counseling for Lehigh University graduate students.

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Disclaimer: Therapy Talks does NOT provide medical services or professional counseling, and it is NOT a substitute for professional medical care.

What is IFS?

Internal Family Systems (IFS) is a therapeutic approach developed by Dr. Richard Schwartz in the 1980s. It is a form of psychotherapy that combines systemic, psychodynamic, and experiential elements to help individuals explore and understand their inner world. The central concept of IFS is the idea that within each person, there are different parts or sub-personalities, each with its own unique qualities, emotions, and perspectives.

Key components of Internal Family Systems:

  1. Parts: The basic premise is that individuals have different “parts” within them, each representing a distinct aspect of their personality. These parts can be protective, wounded, or carry different emotions.
  2. Self: In addition to the various parts, IFS emphasizes the concept of the “Self.” The Self is considered the core or true essence of an individual, characterized by qualities such as calmness, curiosity, compassion, and confidence. The goal of IFS therapy is to help individuals connect with their Self and foster self-leadership.
  3. Protectors and Firefighters: Some parts in the system may take on protective roles to shield the individual from emotional pain or traumatic experiences. These protectors may manifest as controlling behaviors, perfectionism, or numbing emotions. Firefighters, on the other hand, are parts that react impulsively to overwhelming emotions, often through addictive behaviors.
  4. Exiles: Exiles are parts of the self that carry the emotional pain from past traumatic experiences. They are often pushed aside by protectors to prevent the individual from feeling overwhelmed by intense emotions.

The therapeutic process in IFS involves identifying and understanding these different parts, working towards unburdening the exiles, and fostering a harmonious relationship among the various aspects of the self. The therapist helps the individual explore and communicate with these internal parts, ultimately aiming for self-leadership, balance, and healing.

IFS has been applied to various mental health issues, including trauma, anxiety, depression, and relationship challenges. It is considered a non-pathologizing and client-centered approach, focusing on the individual’s internal dynamics with compassion and curiosity.

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