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What is Internal Family Systems?


Useful concepts: Attachment Theory, ACE: Adverse Childhood Experiences


Once upon a time, therapists developed the theory and practice of Family Systems, having realized that the healing of one member of a family could disrupt, or be disrupted by the others. Treating the family as a system helped address the effects of the relationships among and between each member.

Then one day a clinical psychologists, Richard Schwartz, discovered that each of us functions much the same – you and I are systems too! We have parts that operate like individual personalities within us.

Just like members of a family or tribe, these parts form intricate relationships with each other, sometimes involving contempt, secret alliances & sabotage. When they are battling, the system is out of order. Lots of disorders, from depression to addiction to suicidality, can be explained by this paradigm.

But having parts with competing interests doesn’t mean you have a disorder; we all have voices in our heads that sometimes disagree. Multiplicity is the nature of the mind, and IFS gives us the tools to work from that understanding. Using these tools we ensure that every part can express its different needs and preferences while maintaining communication, love & respect, and we find our inner worlds at peace.


Sound like magic? It definitely looks like it! But it’s all backed by science.

See for yourself in this video (beginning at the 5 minute mark).