What is IFS?

Internal Family Systems therapy (IFS) is a psychotherapeutic approach that believes our personalities are made up of a series of sub-personalities or parts - managers, exiles and protectors - and that we have at our very centre a core Self.

Managers are parts with pre-emptive protective roles. They handle the way a person interacts with the external world to protect them from being hurt by others and try to prevent painful or traumatic feelings and experiences from flooding a person's awareness.

Exiles are parts that are in pain, shame, fear, or trauma, usually from childhood. Managers and protectors try to exile these parts from consciousness, to prevent this pain from coming to the surface.

Protectors are parts that emerge when exiles break out and demand attention. These parts work to distract a person's attention from the hurt or shame experienced by the exile by leading them to engage in impulsive behaviours like overeating, drug use, violence, or having inappropriate sex or more subtle activities such as overworking or over-medicating.

All parts have their own perspectives, interests and memories and are therefore often in conflict. However, every part has a positive intention for the person even if its actions are negative - over eating, drug use etc. - so there is no need for them to be in conflict.

IFS helps disentangle people from their parts and access the Self, which can then connect with each part and heal it, so that the parts can let go of their destructive roles and enter into a harmonious collaboration, led by the Self.

In a nutshell how does IFS help?

IFS helps you find out why you behave the way you do (what you're protecting yourself from) and helps you heal your wounded parts so that the destructive behaviour is no longer needed.

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