Internal Family Systems Therapy In A Nutshell

Internal Family Systems (IFS) offers a profound pathway to connect with and heal every part of oneself through the transformative power of compassion and courage.

IFS stands out for its non-pathologizing perspective on human nature. This evidence-based systemic therapeutic approach recognizes the presence of diverse parts in our psyche, often referred to as subpersonalities. Each part of our inner system is viewed as a discrete and autonomous personality, holding a unique range of emotions, styles of expression, set of abilities, desires, beliefs and memories. Parts can show up in our system as thoughts, feelings, sensations, memories, inner voices, images, words, dreams or physical symptoms.

Within our internal system, we recognize two main types of parts: protectors and exiles. The primary function of protector parts is evident in their name – they serve to shield exiles, the vulnerable parts, from the emotional pain they carry such as feelings of rejection, abandonment, humiliation, worthlessness, powerlessness, shame, or helplessness, among others.

To fulfill their role, protectors often resort to a range of strategies, including inner criticism, perfectionism, guilt-tripping, people-pleasing, caretaking, controlling tendencies, and can engage in addictive or self-destructive behaviors. Simultaneously, there are protectors that may respond adversely to those protectors' strategies viewing them as undesirable or repulsive and wanting to eliminate them from the system. This internal polarization can lead to pervasive sense of anxiety and tension within the individual.

However, in the IFS model, every protector part is approached with a profound understanding of its positive intention, regardless of its nature or role. Rather than pathologizing or seeking to eliminate these internal parts, IFS is committed to nurturing a compassionate relationship with both protectors and exiles, creating an environment conducive to their healing and transformation.

The process of nurturing compassionate relationships with our parts is a foundational principle in IFS and this is achieved through the presence of Self which refers to our innate qualities of compassion, curiosity, courage, confidence, connectedness, calmness, clarity and creativity. Thus, Self plays a pivotal role in guiding and supporting all our parts toward healing. Self facilitates the release of burdens and pain that our parts carry, thus fostering a more harmonious and balanced inner system.

Therefore, the fundamental goal of IFS therapy is to illuminate and navigate the intricate relationships among the diverse parts of our internal landscape with the support of our Self. Ultimately, this process aims to bring the internal system into a state of balance and harmony.

IFS proves to be a versatile therapeutic tool, adept at addressing a spectrum of emotional and psychological challenges, ranging from trauma, anxiety and depression to relationship difficulties and self-esteem issues. By exploring the transformative potential of IFS, individuals can embark on a journey of self-discovery and healing that transcends traditional therapeutic boundaries.

To delve deeper into the enriching possibilities of IFS, consider learning more about this therapeutic model and its potential to unlock the pathways to well-being.


• What parts of your inner system are you aware of and how do you recognize them in or around your body?

• How do you feel towards these parts?

• If you feel curious about your parts, ask them to share their story with you. What is their role in your system, how long have they been doing their job, and do they enjoy doing it?

• Extend genuine appreciation towards your parts for all that they have shared with you and for the hard work they are doing.