If you’re struggling with a mental health issue like trauma, anxiety, stress, or depression, you may be searching for a solution to help you heal and move forward. Internal Family Systems therapy (IFS) is a unique type of therapy.

It’s used to address various mental health concerns. In this therapy, we explore the different parts or perspectives that we have within us as an internal family system. Many of us have had the experience of feeling that a part of us wants to think and feel one way, but another part pulls us in a different direction that, causes us to feel stuck.

An illustration of a young woman's face showing three separate emotions.

Understanding the Self and Parts of Our Personality

At its core, IFS is a form of therapy that focuses on an individual’s internal “parts” and the relationship between them and the individual’s “self.” The parts represent different aspects of our personality, such as the critical voice, the wounded child, or the protector. When a particular part of your personality is in charge, you may experience it in any number of ways—thoughts, feelings, sensations, images, and more. On the other hand, our self is the core of our being, our whole. It’s our true self or best self—compassionate and wise self.

Exiles, Managers, and Firefighters Parts

In IFS, trauma (stressful life events or emotional/physical neglect) is seen as a part that has become stuck in a negative experience and is holding onto the emotions and beliefs associated with that experience.

When we experience trauma, it threatens the integrity of our self. We exile these traumas and bury them deep down. These wounded and forgotten parts of ourselves are called Exiled Parts, and they —subconsciously enlist the help of “managers” and “firefighters” to distract us from keeping them from resurfacing back to the conscious.

Manage Parts proactively distracting us from our exiled (wounded) parts to protect us by “never again” allowing vulnerability, pain, or instability. They are the parts of us that are excessively one or more of the following: controlling, analyzing, perfectionism, criticizing, judging, caretaking, pessimistic, planning, and numbing.

When our managers are overwhelmed and can’t control our exiled parts, our firefighter parts take over. They are reactive in their attempts to distract—which often manifests in impulsive behavior such as addiction, self-harming, over-eating, over-spending or even complete shutdown.

Until our exiled parts obtain a felt sense of healing their wounds, the managers and firefighters will continue to subconsciously keep us in rigid and impulsive behaviors intended to help us feel stable. Instead, they can cause us to feel stuck in specific emotional thoughts and behavioral patterns instead of authentic living in the present moment.

How IFS Works

IFS aims to understand and uncover what our protectors have exiled and are preventing us from remembering. By participating in exercises where our parts are personified as if they are people and talking directly to our parts, we can learn our trauma’s history and story and work on healing it and letting it go.

In IFS, your therapist guides you, helping you explore and understand your parts and their relationship to your self. Through internal dialogue, visualization exercises, and mindfulness practices, you learn to access your self and work toward releasing negative emotions and beliefs and integrating your parts into your self to become your true self.

IFS for Couples, Families, and Individuals

If you’re struggling with a mental health issue, IFS therapy can help you heal and move forward. IFS can help couples and families as well as individuals. By exploring and understanding your internal parts and their relationship to your self, you can work toward letting go of negative emotions and beliefs and integrate your parts into a complete whole—to become your best self.

Discover how IFS therapy can resolve your inner conflict and heal your mental health.

Fully Integrated Psychotherapy & Consultation offers telehealth services throughout the state of New York, helping clients find solutions to their mental health challenges.

Contact us today.