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How Does IFS Therapy Work?


How Does IFS Therapy Work?
How Does IFS Therapy Work?


How Does IFS Therapy Work?


When you make a recipe, you may have various supplies and utensils. Measuring cups, spoons, bowls, pans, and ingredients may be required. Three cups of flour. One cup of milk. Three tablespoons of baking powder. All these ingredients come together to form a recipe that makes each ingredient better than on its own.


The same can be said about people. Each person is made up of different parts and pieces that make them into their unique selves. This is the main idea behind IFS therapy.


Let’s learn more about IFS therapy and what it can help with.


What is IFS Therapy?

IFS stands for Internal Family Systems Therapy. IFS therapy was founded in 1987 by psychotherapist Richard C. Schwartz, PhD. IFS was first described as the brain having different modules or beliefs, feelings, and expectations about the world.


The Parts of IFS

Schwartz believed that three parts exist within each individual person. The three parts are the managers, the firefighters, and the exiles. These parts each have positives and negatives as with anything in life.


The Managers

Managers are the part of oneself that helps avoid situations that may bring embarrassment, harm, or pain. Managers work hard to try to preplan and be proactive rather than reactive towards situations. A negative side of a manager is that they can tend to be perfectionists and even avoid certain opportunities out of fear of being wrong or shamed.


The Firefighters

The firefighter parts work to reduce or minimize certain feelings, just as an actual firefighter would attempt to put out any fires. While trying to reduce certain feelings may seem like a good thing, especially about the trauma, firefighters can use negative coping mechanisms like drugs and alcohol as a way to temporarily numb their feelings.


The Exiles

The exiles are the only part out of the three parts that actually carry any painful or negative memories and feelings. Managers and firefighters work to avoid any trauma. The exiles hold onto those negative thoughts, feelings, and painful memories. The managers and firefighters work to try to hide the exile parts instead of dealing with those thoughts, emotions, and feelings.


How IFS Therapy Works

The overall goal of IFS therapy is to balance the three parts again. IFS therapy works by a therapist working with their client to better understand their unique parts. Once a client can have a better understanding of their parts and how trauma affected them internally, they’ll be able to work towards healing and finding that balance again. Healing involves reconnecting to their eight Cs and five Ps again in order to have a more balanced and fulfilled life.


The Eight Cs


  1. Calmness

  2. Clarify

  3. Compassion

  4. Confidence

  5. Connectedness

  6. Courage

  7. Creativity

  8. Curiously


The Five Ps


  1. Patience

  2. Persistence

  3. Perspective

  4. Playfulness

  5. Presence


The Benefits of IFS

There are a lot of benefits to this form of therapy. For one, IFS helps a person better understand who they are as a person and why. This is a huge benefit as it can lead to other benefits like correcting or replacing unwanted actions and behaviors or living a more peaceful and happier overall life.


IFS isn’t the most well-known form of therapy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t effective for most individuals. It is believed that IFS therapy can benefit individuals who are struggling with the following issues:


  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Marginalized identities

  • Low self-esteem

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)


Next Steps

If you’re interested in learning more about IFS therapy and if it’s a good fit for you personally, reach out to us today to get connected with one of our IFS therapy providers.



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