Internal Family Systems (IFS)
“All parts are welcome.”
Internal Family Systems
Internal Family Systems (IFS) is an evidence-based treatment modality that is based
on two main concepts: that every person has parts and every person has a Self. IFS
is a non-pathologizing approach that promotes self-compassion and the concept
that every client has the inner wisdom to heal. IFS can treat a range of mental health
“IFS therapy uses a plural model of the mind: we all have an internal system of countless
parts who interact internally with each other and externally with other people.”
Have you ever felt stuck in an internal conflict? You may have multiple opinions
about one thing and are unsure what to do. Part of me feels like_____ and another
part of me feels like_________. These different opinions are examples of parts of you or
parts of your personality.
IFS explores these parts in depth with openness and compassion. All parts want something positive for the internal system. This stance helps heal wounded parts and leads to a greater understanding and connection to self and others.
No Bad Parts: Healing Trauma and Restoring Wholeness with the Internal Family Systems Model
by Dick Schwartz
There are three main categories of parts including:
The Preventative parts: Proactive protectors that focus on functioning and
keeping the system stable. They act to prevent us from being triggered and
overwhelmed by emotions and accessing exiles. Managers come in many forms
including hard-working, intellectualizing, worrying, and conflict-avoidant parts.
Reactive/extreme parts: Firefighters have the same goals as managers to extinguish emotional pain, but they get activated after exiles' breakthroughs (traumatic memories/emotions) despite the efforts of manager parts. Firefighters are often extreme and reactive. They can include alcohol and drug abuse, binge eating, obsessive shopping, and cutting.
Wounded parts: These parts are vulnerable and have been wounded, often
shamed, dismissed, or abused. They carry painful thoughts, feelings, and sensations
from traumatic and overwhelming experiences. Exiles are pushed out of the system
and restricted from awareness by managers and firefighters to prevent overwhelm.
Exiles can include parts that feel: unloved, ashamed, worthless, and alone.
“An innate presence in each of us that promotes balance, harmony, and non-
judgmental qualities.” The Self is a state of being that cannot be created or
destroyed. The Self can be accessible when parts separate or “unblend.” People
often describe the experience of being connected to Self as being “centered”
8 Characteristics of Self include:
Goals of Internal Family Systems in Madison, WI
The initial goals of IFS therapy are to connect clients to their Self and befriend and get to
know their parts. After befriending protective parts, clients can access their wounds
or exiles in order to bring them healing through their Self-energy. Ultimately, the
client will be able to build trust within their system to allow the Self to act as a
leader rather than protective parts.
Protective parts can shift into positive roles that are more effective in honoring their good intentions. When Self is elevated as the leader it brings balance and harmony to the system. Imagine experiencing life and social interactions through Self energy or a feeling of being centered rather than from a place of feeling depressed and anxious. This process naturally allows the client to reach their goals and improve their well-being.
What does an Internal Family Systems session look like?
IFS therapy in Madison, WI is an individualized treatment approach and may be experienced differently from client to client as no two clients have the exact same parts. Some may experience their parts in physical sensations, sounds, or images. For example, parts can show
An IFS therapist might ask you to
“Go inside” means check-in on physical sensation and emotion in the body and ask yourself “What part of you needs attention today?” The IFS therapist will help you get to know the identified part. The therapist will ask questions like:
Where is this part located in your body?
What does it feel like?
Are there any images, sounds, sensations, colors, shapes, textures that go with it?
How did this part get its job?
What does this part want for you?
Tell me what does this part fear?
How do you feel about this part?
The Benefit of This Approach in Internal Family Systems
This guided exploration facilitates attunement to our parts instead of shaming parts
or wanting to get rid of them. This process builds trust within the system and allows
protectors to relax and allow access to exiles to receive healing and love from the
Self. As more and more exiles are healed or “unburdened,” we experience a
decrease in symptoms and a deeper connection to Self and others.
Begin Internal Family Systems in Madison, WI
When you are ready to start therapy, we are here for you. We know that getting started with a new therapist can itself be a source of stress and worry, so we make it simple! Our Madison, WI-based therapists can even help you anywhere in the state with online therapy in Wisconsin. To get started, just follow these three steps:
Call our office at 608-571-0558 or e-mail us to make an appointment
Start your journey to a more joyful life today
More Mental Health Services at Golden Vibes Counseling Center
At our Madison, WI therapy clinic, we want you to feel comfortable. We know you are a multi-faceted person with a wide range of needs and concerns. That's why we have a lot of different ways to serve you. From therapy in our chic, contemporary counseling space to expert online counseling in Wisconsin, we are ready to meet you where you are. Our professional therapists can help you using a variety of approaches including CBT, EMDR, and Brainspotting. These methods can help with sexual assault recovery, depression treatment, anxiety therapy, reproductive or maternal mental health, multicultural counseling, and more. We also specialize in LGBTQAI+ counseling and poly-affirming therapies and can assist with gender-affirming care. We truly look forward to meeting you and getting to know you as an individual.
Transcending Trauma: Healing Complex PTSD with Internal Family Systems by