IFS founder, Dr. Richard Schwartz, believes that we all have several parts living within us that fulfill both healthy and unhealthy roles. Life events or trauma, however, can force us out of those healthy roles into extreme roles. The goal of IFS therapy is to help clients to achieve balance within their internal system and to differentiate and elevate the core healthy self so it can be an effective leader in the system.
IFS uses a six-step process to help you find these parts and release their burdens.
First, you’ll be asked to turn your attention inward, possibly by starting with meditation. You will pay attention to the sensations in your body that come up to identify a part to work with. If you’ve ever had an upset headache or stomach because you were nervous, then you may understand how our mind and body work together on our emotions.
Next, you will be asked to turn your focus to this part.
Once you’ve found and focused on a part, it is time to flesh it out—to see what else you can learn about it. To “flesh out” something means to put meat on its bones. Metaphorically, it means to add details or make something more complete. You will talk with your therapist to eventually flesh out each specific part of yourself. What emotions are associated with it? Is it a particular color? Does it represent you at a particular age?
How do you feel about this part? This will give your therapist an idea of how big or small of a role this part is playing in your life.
This may be one of the hardest steps—getting to know the part and seeing how it takes shape in your life. It involves a degree of acceptance of the part’s existence, but that doesn’t mean it needs to stay there.
Fear is the last F. In the process of befriending, you will discover what the fears are of that part of you. What are they afraid will happen without their presence in your life?
The first appointment will be similar to any other type of therapy—answering some general questions about your paperwork, telling the therapist more about yourself and what brings you to therapy. In the first session, you also may begin the work to identify your parts. More information about IFS is here.