Internal Family Systems (IFS) is an evidence-based therapeutic approach incorporating multiplicity of mind and family system theories. IFS assumes that each individual has a variety of sub-personalities or "parts." Each part has unique thoughts, emotions, and behavior patterns. Thus, in IFS, an individual is not perceived as an angry or depressed person, but as having a part that is angry or depressed. Therapy helps individuals get to know each part in order to heal and change.
Parts are believed to play distinct roles in an attempt to protect an individual's internal system from harm. Because each part is trying to help the person survive and function in everyday life, all parts are validated and seen as important to the system. All parts are welcome in IFS, even the seemingly mean and scary parts. Parts interact with each other similar to members of a family (i.e., having conflicts, forming alliances). However, an individual can intervene carefully and respectfully to change the relationships between their internal parts.
IFS claims that all individuals have an authentic Self. The Self represents the seat of consciousness and what each person is at the core. The Self consists of positive qualities such as calmness, curiosity, courage, and compassion. The Self should be in a position of leadership in the internal system and assist in coordinating the parts. Unlike visible parts, the Self is not seen. It is the observer of the system and a state of mind.
The IFS therapist helps an individual differentiate the Self from the parts. The Self can "unburden" or heal extreme or wounded parts. The goal of IFS is to create trusting relationships between the Self and the parts. Trusting relationships help place the Self in a position of leadership and establish a healthy, harmonious internal system.
Once in a state of Self, an individual will know what to say or do for each part. Thus, the IFS therapist helps persons achieve a state of Self to allow them to become their own counselors to their internal family. The increased internal harmony can also create positive changes in the person's external life. As an evidence-based therapy, IFS has been shown to be effective for the improvement of general emotional/mental well-being and has been rated as promising to improve symptoms of phobia, panic, generalized anxiety, depression, and certain physical ailments.
If you would like to further research IFS, the following website may be beneficial.
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