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Internal Family Systems (IFS)

IFS is frequently used as an evidence-based psychotherapy, helping people heal by accessing and healing their protective and wounded inner parts. IFS creates inner and outer connectedness by helping people first access their self and, from that core, come to understand and heal their parts.

What is IFS?

IFS is talk therapy in which you work with a therapist to identify and understand the specific sub-personalities or families that make up your internal mental system. Once you identify these parts, the therapist will help you acknowledge your feelings about these suppressed emotions, learn how to release these feelings so you are freer to address the actual problem, and ultimately find more positive ways to manage conflicts on your own.

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How does IFS work?

The IFS model believes that everyone has a core Self, a genuine self, waiting to be accessed. The Self can identify, observe, and help these parts become less extreme, more productive, and coexist effectively.

The Self has many positive traits, according to the model, including the eight Cs and the five Ps. The presence of these traits can help identify how much of the Self is available at a given time and how much of the Self may still need to emerge. The eight Cs are: Confidence, Calmness, Creativity, Clarity, Curiosity, Courage, Compassion, Connectedness. The five Ps are: Presence, Patience, Perspective, Persistence, Playfulness.

Therapists can help clients identify their parts and release the burdens that these parts carry. To do so, they may follow a six-step process:

Find: Identify the parts of your mind and body that need attention.

Focus: Pay attention to the relevant part.

Flesh: Flesh it out by describing it and your experience of it.

Feel: Explore how you feel toward this part.

Befriend: Express curiosity about this part and accept its presence.

Fear: Ask what this part fears and what it would fear if you changed its role.

Learning to recognize and explore these parts can help clients shift how their parts function and create positive change.

The undamaged core Self is the essence of who you are. A person's parts can be healed, transformed, and better managed by the Self by achieving three goals of IFS:

1. Free the parts from their extreme roles.

2. Restore trust in the Self.

3. Coordinate and harmonize the Self and the parts, so they can work together as a team with the Self in charge.


What is IFS,

The Center for Self Leadership. Evolution of the Internal Family Systems Model by Dr. Richard Schwartz, Ph.D. 

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