My Therapy Space, Inc. - 516-884-3131
211 E43rd St, Rm 704, New York, NY 10017 - 520, 2 Franklin Ave Suite L-11 Room, Garden City, NY 11530
The Internal Family System.
IFS Therapy in Midtown East, Manhattan
& Garden City, Long Island
What Is Internal Family Systems Therapy?
Internal Family Systems—or IFS—is a form of therapy that promotes self-compassion and self-validation. As an internally focused approach, IFS does not focus as much on changing behaviors as on harmonizing the often disconnected and conflicting parts of the self. By acknowledging that all of our parts have a role—even the ones that make us feel uncomfortable—we can better understand the function that each emotion serves.
Psychologist Richard Schwartz developed the Internal Family Systems model in the 1990s after observing that his clients really struggled to find harmony between the disparate and conflicting parts of themselves. He discovered that the many internal parts within the self were both common and dynamic, causing him to view a single human mind as an internal family unit made up of different parts. When clients were successful in blending their different parts they were better prepared to tap into their innate ability to recover from trauma.
Because IFS is an integrative approach that encourages self-compassion, it can be especially useful in treating depression, anxiety, and emotional distress. As of 2015, IFS therapy has been listed in the National Registry for Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP) and is now also used to treat a wide variety of other mental health challenges, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), compulsive behaviors, phobias, substance abuse, and bipolar disorder.
How Does IFS Therapy Work?
A therapist using Internal Family Systems is likely to be trained in trauma-informed modalities and work from a place of validation rather than authority. An effective IFS therapist will view the treatment process as client-driven and client-oriented in a way that highlights each individual’s ability to heal themself.
IFS is deeply rooted in the idea that all of us maintain a system of parts—each part having its own unique name and function—and together, they make up the Internal Family Systems model. The “exiles,” are the wounded parts of our emotional being; the protective parts, or “managers,” are the mechanisms we have in place to shield ourselves from the pain; and the “firefighters” are the protective systems that kick into high gear when the managers aren’t successful in preventing the pain of certain emotions.
This may be easier to understand and map out when broken down with an example. Since, oftentimes, the root of someone’s pain or trauma stems back to childhood, we can take the example of a teacher calling out a child in class and dissect the embarrassment and trauma that occur when said student does not know the answer to the question being asked of them.
The “exile” in this case is the child who is likely to carry the feeling of humiliation into adulthood. Wanting to avoid being put in this uncomfortable scenario again, the child-turned-adult may develop anxious or perfectionistic tendencies—or “managers”—that will keep them from feeling the pain of embarrassment. And when those systems fail, the “firefighter” enters the picture, intensifying the self-deprecating and harmful behaviors in an effort to numb (this may take the form of substance abuse or avoidance in this instance).
Seeing the kind of distress and disconnect this exile has created within the client, an IFS therapist will facilitate reconnection to the self by tapping into a client’s innate ability to heal and calm the nervous system. The clinician will then encourage the client to thank and validate their protectors along the way—as opposed to mitigating them—so that true and fundamental healing can begin.
Much of IFS therapy involves a profound mind-body connection so that clients can develop more awareness about how each of their parts is making them feel in their bodies. And once the core wound is listened to and validated, it can be released and freed from the client’s body.
Whereas many therapeutic approaches involve reducing counterproductive behaviors, managing emotions, and developing skills for coping, IFS therapy aims to reconnect conflicting parts of one’s internal system by treating all behaviors and emotions as valuable and worthy of acceptance. An IFS therapist understands that for a wound to be healed, it first needs to be understood and validated.
IFS At My Therapy Space, Inc.
I operate from the premise that all of us have some form of trauma, and thus, parts work can be especially valuable on the journey toward healing. Instead of looking at surface-level symptoms or issues, I am much more interested in creating a slowed, relaxed environment where my clients can really access the heart space needed to understand their unhealed wounds.
I am trained in and knowledgeable about a wide range of therapeutic approaches, however I became particularly interested in IFS therapy upon studying the effects of trauma in individuals who survived various forms of abuse, violence, and emotional distress. Upon understanding that it’s not enough to simply reframe things more positively or manage “bad” behaviors, I really started to see the value in an internal, integrative, and self-compassionate approach when it comes to reducing the effects of trauma.
When I discovered Internal Family Systems therapy I was drawn in by its effectiveness and unique perspective, and quickly worked to become credentialed through the official IFS Institute. Since then, I have incorporated parts work into my practice and have been amazed by its capacity for helping my clients to grow and heal.
Your Wounds Contain The Key To Healing
If you struggle with unresolved trauma, anxiety, depression, or distress, Internal Family Systems therapy can help you identify and validate your wounds on the path to recovery and restoration. For more information about how IFS therapy can help you or to schedule a free, 15-minute consultation to see if we’re a good match, please visit my contact page.