What is IFS?
IFS is an innovative form of psychotherapy developed by Richard C. Schwartz, PhD, that has been expanding across the country at a rapid pace. It is deeply compassionate, spiritual, and powerfully healing.
IFS operates from the understanding that our psyches are made up of different parts, sometimes referred to as subpersonalities. Each of our parts have a unique set of characteristics, much like an individual person. For example, while one part of you may want you to work 60-70 hours a week, another part of you may want you to relax, and hate the fact that another part always pressures you to work so hard. While each part has its own perspectives, memories, roles, feelings and triggers, they all ultimately have the same goal- to serve you, and protect you from harm- even if at first glance it doesn't look that way.
Oftentimes the roles they are playing are burdensome, but they feel the need to do them because they are protecting more vulnerable parts from being hurt again, as well as possibly protecting you from feeling the pain of those vulnerable parts which are still in need of healing.
Image from animas.org
For instance, in the above example where Julian had a part of him that pressured him to work 60-70 hours a week, that part was protecting a little boy, who at age 9 remembers being stranded on a snowy roadside with his family when their car broke down and they didn't have the money to fix it. This part of him was protecting him from ever having so little money that history would repeat itself. What this part of him didn't realize was, he in fact had a lot of money at this point, and didn't need to work 60-70 hours a week. This part also needed to have the little boy's experience compassionately witnessed and released. Using IFS, we witnessed what happened to him when he was little, took him out of that impoverished time, and showed him where Julian was now- how many fancy cars and homes he had- more than enough money to keep him safe from impoverishment. This "slave-driving" part of Julian no longer felt the need to spend so much energy keeping this boy safe, working so hard to earn more and more money. He was now relieved of that role and discovered he wanted to create art and spend more time with his family.
We all have parts like the inner critic, the abandoned child, the pleaser, the angry part, and the loving caretaker.
Another facet to IFS which is incredibly beautiful and empowering is that you as the client are the one bringing healing. Through over 30 years of treating patients, Richard Schwartz discovered that beneath these apparent "parts" lies a compassionate, curious, grounded and calm place in each person. In IFS, we refer to this as the"Self."This compassionate energy in all of us doesn't judge any of our parts, and has the ability to bring healing and peace. What's more, as we relieve parts of us of their burdened roles, they are free to be in their natural state- at ease, playful, creative, inspired, strong. And, we can come from this deeper place of peace, calm, grounded compassion in our daily lives towards ourselves and others.