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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Barsky

Here’s What You Need to Know About the Parts of IFS Therapy


Have you ever assigned the emotions you feel to different personalities? Happiness is a ray of sunshine and anger is a red ball of fury. The 2015 Pixar movie Inside Out does a great job of personifying emotions this way.


But what is the basis of this technique? Believe it or not, it ties into an advanced form of psychotherapy. Each of these sub-personalities composes one whole being: you! If you are confused or intrigued by this topic, you are not alone. I am here to teach you more about IFS therapy and how it may benefit you.

What is IFS therapy?

Internal Family Systems, otherwise known as IFS, is a type of therapy that focuses on self-acceptance and validation. Unlike other forms of psychotherapy, IFS seeks to mend conflicting emotions and the dissonance that comes from having two seemingly incompatible ideals.


Developed in the 1990s, IFS theorizes that our minds are made up of multiple sub-personalities. In turn, these different personas create a family unit that works together in harmony. This technique is hugely beneficial in integrating the contrasting thoughts, ideas, and emotions each human experiences.


For example, if you live with depression, you may think that you are not deserving of good things, but some part of you may feel that you are worthy. IFS seeks to blend these thoughts together.

The main subparts of IFS

Although each individual is capable of holding infinite sub-personalities, there are three main ways that these parts are categorized.

  • The Firefighter: This persona acts as a bodyguard. When you are triggered by painful thoughts or memories, the firefighter will cause you to self-soothe. However, the routes of self-soothing may have consequences along with being helpful, such as binge eating or substance abuse.

  • The Manager: As the name suggests, manager parts act out by managing. This may go far beyond what is expected and even take on obsessive tendencies. The manager will try to manage a situation completely, down to your emotions surrounding the situation.

  • The Exile: The exile is the rogue member of the IFS family. This is the persona that carries your shame, trauma, and any other harmful memories. The firefighter and manager exist to keep the exile at bay.

The 6 F’s of IFS therapy

In order to fully address each part of the IFS, your counselor will walk you through the 6 F’s of this type of therapy. The goal of following the six F’s is to alleviate the burdens of each subpart and heal the exile parts.

The F’s include:

  • Find: Begin by turning inwards. Search your body and find what parts need your attention.

  • Focus: Once you have successfully identified where your body needs assistance, focus your attention on it.

  • Flesh out: From here, you can begin to explore this part more fully. Do you have a picture of what this part looks like? What part of your life is it associated with?

  • Feel: At this step, continue introspection. How does this part feel? How does this subpart make you feel?

  • (Be)Friend: Now that you have spent some time considering this part, befriend it. This is considered the most difficult part of IFS — befriending parts of yourself you may not like. However, it is all on the path toward self-acceptance.

  • Fear: Consider this part and what its secret fears are. What is it afraid of? How would it fear if its role in IFS changed? What is it protecting you from?

The ultimate goal of therapy is to find peace and comfort within yourself. As a therapist specializing in IFS, I can attest to the momentous healing IFS can have. Regardless of whether or not you choose to pursue IFS therapy, I will be with you every step of the way. Reach out to me today to see if we are a good match.


For more information on trauma therapy, check out the link!




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