Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS) is a type of therapy that is rapidly gaining popularity in the therapeutic world. This is in part due to its ease of use, how much it is guided by the client’s own best impulses and thinking, and that it is something that a client is taught to do as much as it is done "to" them. It can be used by almost anybody and is safer than some other trauma-resolution techniques when a client has high levels of dissociation. It also works well in conjunction with other therapies such as EMDR, and it can be understood as a way to access and sometimes accelerate the benefits of CBT.
How Does IFS work?
IFS sometimes seems whimsical or even silly when first presented, but it is in fact based in a very powerful and useful way of looking at who are and why we do what we do. This perspective thinks of our personalities as a "family" of parts, as in "part of me wants to do things one way and part of me wants to do them another way." The various parts may work together well, may be in constant conflict, or may seem to act in complete chaos. When conflict or chaos are common, IFS uses some of the techniques of family therapy to resolve the inner tension and reestablish order, just like a therapist would do for a family of individuals who share a goal but can’t agree of how to accomplish it, or one in which the members seem to fight about everything.
IFS can be done many ways, but it often starts as a series of guided meditations in which the client learns to relax and establish a safe place in their mind. Once this is done, they are encouraged to visualize various parts of themselves arriving at that safe place to talk. These parts may link themselves to troubling or important memories, and they sometimes need to be taught that they can let go of the memories, leading to better feelings and behaviors today. Clients often get to know their parts well over time and can increasingly be in contact with them in between sessions, thus finding greater peace and stability on their own, something they can do for life once they’ve learned how.