Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapy

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Internal Family Systems (IFS) psychotherapy is an evidence-based individual type of therapy that uses a non-pathologizing approach to healing. It is based on the idea that we all contain different parts within us and that every part carries positive intent for us. IFS asserts that each of us has the capacity to heal ourselves by tapping into our inherent resources and wisdom. The IFS therapy model is very respectful of the pain or trauma that we all carry. Even though IFS reaches deeply into our psyche in powerful ways, it never tries to barge past defenses or dive too quickly into deep issues. The credo of IFS is: "all parts are welcome", no matter how dark, or scary, or threatening they may appear. The word "family" in IFS refers to the family of various personalities (parts) inside each of us.

Our internal parts
We Are Made Of Parts
People are multifaceted they have different aspects, sides, parts, or facets of their personality, effectively, our "internal family". For example, you may have a part that loves a person and another part that hates that person. Each part serve a different function. It may want to protect you from harm or help you feel good about yourself. It may want to keep you from feeling pain or make other people like you. Despite their best intentions, these parts don"t always act wisely. Our parts might keep us stuck in negative patterns and have a destructive impact on our lives. Even if a part sees the present accurately, it may have a faulty strategy for helping us. However, underneath the surface, they are always doing what they think is best for us.

Vivian Gornick in "The Odd Woman and the City" says:

"we are, every last one of us, divided against ourselves. We both want to grow up and don"t want to grow up; we hunger for sexual pleasure, we dread sexual pleasure; we hate our own aggressions anger, cruelty, the need to humiliate yet they derive from the grievances we are least willing to part with."

The Idea of Self
In addition to our parts, we all have internal strength to get us through difficult times. Deep down, our inner resource that knows what"s best and navigates every situation, is our core Self our essential inner wisdom that is present in all of us from the moment we are born. This Self energy is not a part and can be characterized by curiosity, compassion, openness, kindness, caring, connectedness, calmness, and other similar qualities. Self can be accessed to help us heal parts that need attention.

Elaine Korngold, LPC at in Oregon, is an IFS therapist trained in Internal Family Systems work to heal distress and trauma.
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