The Internal Family Systems model has been formative for me since graduate school in 2001. IFS founder Dick Schwartz says in addition to it being an approach to psychotherapy, IFS has become a model of personality and a spiritual practice as well. I am intrigued by IFS on all of those levels as a caregiver and as a client. I provide consultation to students, therapists, organizational leaders, teachers, clergy, and others who seek to integrate the model and bring more self-leadership to their life and work. This has taken on the form of one-to-one consultation, coaching, group education, retreats, and leader development.
IFS emphasizes the universal presence of Self, sometimes called Soul, or Essence, in all people. If Self is the ontological backdrop or “seat of consciousness” of our experience, then “parts” are the rest of us from which we experience and live life. “Part of me feels…..while another part…..” Many parts fill all sorts of natural and functional roles for us that are expressed freely and are in-step with their gifts. Other parts take on emotional burdens and develop extreme roles that are not natural to them in order to help manage life and protect us from more pain. Metaphorically, Self is sometimes thought of as the Sun, and parts as clouds. Some clouds are dark and block the Sun, some are light and refract the Sun’s rays and warmth.
IFS provides a non-pathological path to enhance Self-presence in order to help parts relieve burdens and find more natural roles. The Self is indestructible, unburdened, and naturally possesses capacities and qualities: Clarity, compassion, courage, confidence, curiosity, creativity, calmness, and connectedness, as well as perspective, patience, and presence.
The goal of IFS isn’t to live solely from Self, in a state of perpetual enlightenment–as if. Instead, if the internal world is an orchestra, then it includes many players (parts), a conductor (Self), and music (life). The goal is for the conductor to transcend and unify the parts of the orchestra, to draw from each player’s gifts in ways that complement other players and the music they play together (the living of life). IFS can enhance the “music” we play as parents, partners, friends, and leaders. Growth in Self-leadership frees up our internal world which naturally transforms our external relationships and roles. IFS doesn’t seek to overcome deficits, but instead to release constraints of what we already possess in actuality or potential.
Feel free to contact me if you would like to learn more and explore how IFS can benefit you personally or professionally.