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Internal Family Systems
Internal Family Systems (IFS) is an integrative approach to psychotherapy that distinguishes between your whole “Self” (which I refer to as the Higher Self) and the individual parts of yourself that have their own distinct characteristics and stressors. Together, these individual self-parts make up the "family" that's inside of you.
What are Self Parts?
Just as families experience conflict, there can be conflicts among our self-parts. The rational part of ourselves may be at odds with the emotional part. The critical part may clash with the part that longs for acceptance and affection. Our self-parts can even become so powerful that they overcome our Higher Self altogether, thereby confusing our sense of identity. For instance, if the depressive part of us takes control of our thoughts and actions, we may tell ourselves “I am a depressed person” and come to believe that being depressed is our identity.
The goal of IFS therapy is to help you get in touch with your Higher Self and develop a cooperative and trusting relationship with all of your self-parts, restoring harmony within the “family” that’s inside of you. This way, you will achieve balance between all of your parts and prevent any one of them from gaining control over you. Rather than think yourself as a “depressed person,” you will recognize that feeling depressed is just one among many parts.
In sessions with me, I will guide you through an exercise of dialoguing with the parts of yourself that need your attention. For instance, suppose your critical part, or “inner critic,” is constantly feeding you negative messages about yourself. By dialoguing with the inner critic rather than arguing with it, you may come to realize that the critic is giving you these negative messages to prevent you from failure. It is telling you to avoid the challenges in your life because it seeks to protect you. In this way, unmasking the intentions behind your parts can help you tend to wounded, shamed, and neglected areas of your life.
Through IFS therapy, you have the chance to learn about how your self-parts are trying to help you, uncover the exiled memories and pain they are protecting you from, and realize how you can harness your adult Higher Self to support these parts. In the end, my hope is that you will come away with a deeper understanding of who you are and, in turn, a deeper sense of self-love and self-compassion.
If you’re curious to learn more about IFS as a therapeutic approach, I would be honored to help you reconnect with your Higher Self.
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