Internal Family Systems (IFS)

IFS is an approach to psychotherapy was developed in the 1990s by family therapist Richard Schwartz, Ph.D., who developed the concept of an undamaged core Self that is the confident, compassionate, whole person that is at the core of every individual. IFS identifies three different types of sub-personalities or families that reside within each person’s mental system. In addition to the Self,  these sub-personalities include wounded and suppressed parts called exiles, protective parts called managers, that keep the exiled parts suppressed, and other protective parts called firefighters, that distract the Self from the pain of exiled parts when they are released. For example, an exiled part may be the trauma of earlier abuse, emotions that are suppressed by the manager, while the firefighter may be an alcohol addiction or behavior such as overeating that distracts the client from facing and re-experiencing those uncomfortable emotions.

Internal family systems therapy is used to treat individuals, couples, and families. It is an evidence-based approach that has been shown to be effective for treating a variety of conditions and their symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, phobias, panic, and physical health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, as well as improving general functioning and well-being.

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