What is IFS / Internal Family Systems
What is unique about IFS therapy?
IFS is a powerful approach to therapy that helps people heal deep emotional wounds and trauma. It often helps those who haven’t found success with traditional talk therapy.
- Evidence based – in a recent clinical study IFS was proven effective at treating people with multiple childhood traumas
- Affirming – people aren’t labelled or stigmatized. We recognize that we have behaviors we often want to change, and aspects of our selves that we aren’t proud of, but we don’t see any need to shame you for what you are doing or what you have done.
- Gentle – tender care is taken so that the healing process will unfold naturally. Deep inner wounds are treated with respect. Every step is taken mindful of potential trauma.
- Healing – have you ever wish that you can open an memory like a box, take all the pain out of it, and then put the memory away? IFS isn’t the only approach at works this way, but it is especially powerful for people with a history of abuse or neglect. Common concerns like depression, anxiety, anger management and compulsive habits are treated by healing the wounds and trauma that fuel them.
- Freeing – as we help heal the wounds and fears that weigh you down you find more of your strength, compassion, creatively and hope.
- Brings Inner harmony – we learn to respond to the sources of self-criticism with curiosity and compassion and end the inner battle with negative thoughts.
- Generates Discovery – many of us carry pain or anxiety but we aren’t sure where it comes from. IFS helps us connect with our emotions and recognize the thoughts and memories that are at work in our distress.
- Open – it works well for people who would like to add a spiritual dimension to their healing and for people who do not.
How does it work
We start by discovering and attending to all your parts.
What are parts you ask?
Do you ever think to yourself “I’d like a cookie” and then think “No, I better not, I had a piece of cake at work.”
That is one part of you having a debate with another part of you. One wants the pleasure of that tasty cookie and the other might be worried about gaining weight.
Sometimes the conflict between parts is a little stronger.
Have you ever had nagging critical thoughts like “I can’t believe you made that mistake at work today. That was really stupid, you need to do better.” Then another part comes in to reason that says “Why am I being so hard on myself, anyone would have made that mistake.”
We have all kinds of parts.
- Those that hold trauma or pain, usually buried as deep as we can so we can functioning
- Parts that work to help feel better or escape from pain
- Other parts that do their best to try to keep us safe, like the one that stopped us from eating that cookie.
- Some numb us from the pain.
Why do parts need help sometimes?
- The parts that try to keep us safe are stuck in the past and react too strongly to things in the present
- Some hold so much pain they overwhelm
- The numbing parts can be so active that they numb everything insulating us from the joy of life
- Our coping parts sometimes can’t stop doing what they do resulting in actions that contribute to the pain and shame
How do we help?
We help the parts that are stuck in the past and don’t realize what kept you safe in the past isn’t necessary anymore. We help the ones that hold the pain and trauma let it all go, including the shame. This in turn helps the parts that hold extreme beliefs are stuck doing everything they can to escape pain. With gentleness and wisdom we reconcile parts that hate each other. We do all this by helping you find your inner wisdom, courage and compassion.
IFS is gaining ground as an effective treatment for trauma
In a recent study, 92% of participants with multiple childhood traumas no longer met the criteria for a PSTD Diagnosis after sixteen sessions. This is much higher that the typical 50% found with other approaches.
You can learn more about IFS at the Internal Family Systems Institute.
Leighton Tebay at Cairis Counselling in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan has completed the official Level 1 Internal Family Systems Training and is an IFS Therapist.