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Internal Family Systems

Group Portrait of Friends

Internal Family Systems (IFS)

What is IFS?

Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy is a model of psychotherapy proven to transform individuals. The IFS model is a combination of systems thinking and multiplicity of the mind which dives deep into the inner lives of clients, their “parts”. 

What are the goals of IFS? 

  • To attain balance and harmony within the internal system

  • To uniquely recognize and find confidence in the Self so it can be a strong leader in the system

  • To respect the leadership and decision making of the Self, while the parts provide input for the Self

  • For all parts to exist in moderation and offer their talents to the Self


What is the Self?

Everyone has a Self. It can and should lead the internal system. The Self is the center of you that the parts are talking to. The Self listens to or shuts out various parts within you. The Self is competent, secure, self-assured, relaxed, and able to listen and respond to feedback when differentiated. When the self is in the lead while interacting with others, it is experienced along with non-extreme aspects of the parts. When the self is alone, people describe a feeling of being centered.


What are parts?

It is typical for the human mind to be subdivided into parts. “Parts” are the conflicted pieces of personalities that reside within you and me. They are features of our personality that interact in ways that are similar to how people interact. Parts can be experienced through thoughts, feelings, sensations, images, and more. There is no such thing as a ‘bad’ part. Each one of these parts has something positive to offer for the individual and uses different ways to increase influence in the internal system.


Our parts form a complex system of interactions with themselves and can change rapidly when the entire system is rearranged. When changes occur within and outside of ourselves, our parts are affected and should be assessed. Parts are always in existence and can be affected by experiences in life. IFS therapy targets the details of each of our parts and strives to understand ourselves more in order to organize our thought systems in healthy ways. 


What are extreme parts?

Extreme parts are carrying burdens, or energies that do not belong to the inherent nature of the part. When parts become extreme, they can take over or blend with the Self if they have lost trust in leadership of the Self. Extreme parts are split into three groups: Exiles, Managers, and Firefighters. 


What are exiles? 

Exiles are parts that can leave the individual feeling fragile and vulnerable. They can can become severely extreme and desperate in an effort to be cared for and tell their story. Exiles often become isolated from the rest of the system in attempt to protect the individual after experiencing trauma. 



What are managers?

Managers are parts that run the everyday life of the individual. They attempt to maintain control in every situation and relationship to protect parts from feeling rejection. Managers do this by striving, controlling, evaluating, caretaking, terrorizing, and more.


What are firefighters?

Firefighters are parts that attempt to control and extinguish feelings when the exiles are activated. They have the same goal as managers but utilize different strategies to keep exiles away. Exiles do this by drug or alcohol use, self-mutilation, binge-eating, sex binges and more. 

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