What You Should Know About Internal Family Systems Therapy

Handling trauma is no easy feat, especially if you have suppressed your emotions for a while. However, severe mental health issues can bring your traumas back to the surface. Without proper care and acknowledgment, previous traumas can do real damage to your already fragile mental health.

What can you do when your mental health starts to decline?

Internal family systems therapy is a unique form of therapy that can help. Here is what you should know about this type of behavioral therapy.

What is Internal Family Systems Therapy?

Internal family systems therapy, or IFS, follows the idea that we all have our original, undamaged core “self” with various sub-personalities, or “families,” that make up who we are. These other parts of you are responsible for different tasks that keep you healthy and happy.

We often assign tasks to these parts of ourselves so that we can function correctly. However, we can sometimes overwhelm these families, leaving them with extreme tasks. 

What is the Undamaged Self?

What many psychotherapists refer to as the “undamaged self” is really your conscious thoughts and actions. It is how you view yourself and is virtually invisible to those around you. 

Your self is responsible for all that you observe and think about. It has a vital role when it comes to your mental health. However, many sub-personalities are responsible for protecting yourself from harm.

What are Sub-Personalities?

There are three main sub-personalities, each with its own goals and objectives. First, some managers keep the core self safe. They push away negative emotions and can often become burdened when many negative emotions exist.

Next, there are the exiles. Exiles are responsible for holding onto past trauma or heartache and are cast out from the rest of the family. To keep these feelings from coming into contact with the core self, managers and firefighters exist, keeping them away.

Finally, firefighters act as a form of distraction from your negative emotions. Similar to managers, firefighters keep you safe from harm. Firefighters often come in the form of external stimulants, such as drugs and alcohol.

Each sub-personality exists to protect the core self from past traumas and prevent new trauma from occurring. However, when one part becomes overwhelmed, the rest can be put under severe stress. It can also put the core self at risk of becoming overwhelmed and vulnerable.

When is Internal Family Systems Therapy Used?

IFS can be used to treat individuals, families, and couples in their times of need. In addition, it is used in severe mental illnesses, such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other ailments.

IFS is often recommended if an individual is in a situation with prolonged abuse. However, it can also be used for those who lack strong emotional support systems and in cases of schizophrenia and dementia. It can help the individual to visualize their internalized emotions and overcome the difficulties they’ve faced from an external standpoint.

How Does it Work?

The goal of IFS therapy is to help individuals learn to trust their core selves and get control of their lives back. This is done by relieving your sub-personalities from extreme roles and coordinating those parts to act in harmony.

There are several internal family systems exercises that your therapist may implement to help you begin identifying and understanding your sub-personalities. Keeping a journal or diary to jot down daily thoughts is a big part of most IFS sessions. This is because this stream of consciousness focuses on the self and your own observations.

You may be encouraged to self-reflect on your own inner world and identify your inner family. This is often performed through meditation and visualization. 

Once you have successfully identified and addressed your inner family, your therapist will work with you to understand and acknowledge your emotions. You should then continue to write journals and self-reflect as you speak about your subconscious emotions.

Talk therapy is also commonly used in IFS therapy. This can help patients work their way into their inner world easier. Your therapist can act as a guide to walk you through your internal self and identify your sub-personalities.

What to Look for in an IFS Therapist

Searching for a good, licensed IFS therapist is your first step towards getting your mental health back on track. There are a few key things that you should search for when hiring your therapist.

First, you should seek out a therapist who is trained well in IFS therapy. They will know the necessary steps to help you identify your inner family. Ordinary therapists may not have the tools required to assist you with your subconscious emotions.

You should also choose a therapist who is suitable for your personal needs. For example, if you are searching for someone to help you with couples counseling, you should search for someone with prior couples counseling experience; this will give you the personalized assistance you need.

Ask about your therapist’s experience with IFS treatment. Consider how they have helped their previous clients, as well as how long they have practiced with IFS therapy. This will give you a better idea of how they may treat you.

Repair Your Mental Health Today

You don’t have to struggle with your mental illness alone. Licensed therapists are available to help walk you through your trauma and negative emotions. If you feel your mental health declining, speak with your provider about getting internal family systems therapy.

Are you searching for an IFS therapist to work with you? Are you struggling to cope with past trauma and mental illness?

We’re here to help. Contact us with any questions or concerns about our IFS therapy retreat, and continue reading our blog for more helpful information.