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INTERNAL FAMILY SYSTEMS (IFS) is an approach to psychotherapy that identifies and addresses multiple sub-personalities or families within each person’s mental system. These sub-personalities consist of wounded parts and painful emotions such as anger and shame, and parts that try to control and protect the person from the pain of the wounded parts. The sub-personalities are often in conflict with each other and with one’s core Self, a concept that describes the confident, compassionate, whole-person that is at the core of every individual. IFS focuses on healing the wounded parts and restoring mental balance and harmony by changing the dynamics that create discord among the sub-personalities and the Self.


Taken from a talk  (podcast)  with Tami Simon and Dr. Richard Schwartz about the healing and transformation that occur when we welcome every part of who we are.

All parts are welcome. 

This is a motto from Internal Family Systems, an approach to self-growth, therapy, and inner inquiry developed by Dr. Richard “Dick” Schwartz that has been gaining wide public attention due to its startling effectiveness in creating results for people who have felt stuck in entrenched patterns for decades.

All parts are welcome. 

This includes the parts of ourselves that we find difficult, loathsome, and cause us the most trouble. This includes the parts of ourselves that engage in addictive behaviour, are seriously self-critical, and even the parts that want to cause harm to ourselves or others. 

According to Dick, “These parts of ourselves have protective intentions. They are parts of ourselves that are often frozen in past traumas when their extreme roles were needed. When they trust it is safe to step out of their roles, they are highly valuable to the system. They have valuable talents and resources to lend to us to help us in our life.”

In this podcast, Dick and I discuss how he developed the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model approximately 40 years ago as a direct outgrowth of his work as a family therapist, how the model is evidence-based, and how we can begin to map our parts and learn their secret histories. We also discuss:

  • The myth that the mind is unitary, what Dick calls the myth of the “mono mind”

  • The process of meeting and liberating inner “exiles,” parts of us that are frozen in the past, still hurting, and seemingly locked in inner basements and abysses

  • How a part of us that is performing a role that is no longer useful can “unburden” the concerns it has been carrying, and how this enables us to feel lighter and more free

  • The transformation of the inner critic in us into an inner cheerleader, an inner voice that can help us get our work out into the world

  • The centerpiece of the IFS model: Self-Leadership

  • What it feels like for the Self to no longer be blended with our parts but instead be a field of being that is calm, centered, curious, confident, creative, compassionate, connected, and courageous (the 8 Cs of Self-Leadership)

  • Why the language of parts is so useful in relationships, and how we can make a U-turn when we feel triggered and speak from the Self about how a part of us is feeling

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