Power of Parts

Power of Parts in IFSThe concept of parts in IFS corresponds to ideas from other forms of psychotherapy—for example, defenses, psychic forces, self-images, introjects, and schemas. However, these concepts are normally seen as just mechanical or biological descriptions of how the psyche operates. Parts, or subpersonalities, may operate in similar ways, but they are alive and personal. They do what they do for reasons of their own, and they have relationships with you and with each other. For example, suppose you are using the defense of repression, which makes a certain memory unconscious. IFS recognizes that a protective part is purposely excluding that memory from your awareness for a reason. Perhaps it is afraid that the memory would cause you to be overwhelmed by pain.

Parts Are Entities of Their Own

Parts are entities of their own, with their own feelings, beliefs, motivations, and memories. It is especially important to understand that parts have motivations for everything they do. Nothing is just done out of habit. Nothing is just a pattern of thinking or behavior you learned. Everything (except for purely physiological reactions) is done by a part for a reason, even though that reason may be unconscious. For example, if you get distracted at a certain point while exploring yourself in therapy, this is probably not an accident. A part wants to distract you because it is seeking to avoid something.

Understanding the psyche in this way gives you a great deal of power to change your inner world for the better. Since parts are like little people inside you, you can make contact with them, get to know them, negotiate with them, encourage them to trust you, help them communicate with each other, and give them what they need to heal. When you do, you will have an enormously increased capacity for understanding and transforming your psyche—for achieving wholeness.

You may treat the idea of subpersonalities as simply a useful metaphor for viewing the psyche, which it is, but it is much more than that. If you treat the components of your psyche as real entities that you can interact with, they will respond to you in that way, which gives you tremendous power for transformation. Are they actually real? I believe so, but I invite you to read this book, do the exercises, and make up your own mind.

IFS Latest In Therapy Methods

IFS is the latest in a long line of therapy methods that work with subpersonalities. Early methods were Jungian analysis, Psychosynthesis, Transactional Analysis, and Gestalt therapy. More recent approaches are hypnotherapy, inner child work, Voice Dialogue, Ego State Therapy, John Rowan’s work, and others. IFS is the latest and most sophisticated of these methods. And many forms of therapy that don’t explicitly work with subpersonalities nevertheless use concepts that are quite similar, such as “schemas” in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.

IFS Recognizes Power and Importance of Self

IFS represents an advance over these other methods in a number of ways. It recognizes the power and importance of the Self and bases the therapy on relating to your parts from Self.

The IFS method takes you deep inside yourself while still remaining alert and in charge during a session. It doesn’t just work with parts in isolation; it has a sophisticated understanding of the relationships between parts that guides the therapy method.

As you will see, the most important relationship is between those parts that protect us from pain and those child parts that are in pain. The problems that occur within the human psyche are largely structured around the need to protect ourselves from pain. Since the IFS approach is organized around this, we can have respectful sensitivity to our pain and defenses while pinpointing our work with laser-like efficiency.




Interactive Training Group

Group trainingThe Interactive Training Group is for therapists and group leaders who are currently leading a group or who plan to lead one in the future.

It is a full-fledged Interactive Group that also includes training and supervision on leading Interactive Groups and IFS groups. Click here for a complete description of Interactive Groups.

In addition to the usual Interactive Group work, I teach about leading groups using our group as an example. You have opportunities to ask questions and get supervision on groups that you are leading or starting. The text for the group is my book, Interactive Group Therapy. We discuss the following topics:

  • How to structure a group
  • Developmental stages of a group
  • Group process
  • Facilitating interactions
  • Incorporating IFS in group work
  • Dealing with reactions to the group leader
  • When the leader’s parts get triggered
  • Interviewing new group members
  • Dealing with difficult group members
  • Group roles
  • Group consultations

Second and Fourth Tuesdays of each month
10am – 12 noon pacific time (1-3pm eastern, 6-8pm UK)
Starts Feb. 9

Getting Started

You meet with me for a free pre-group interview to see if the group is a good fit for your professional and personal needs.
Then you can try out the group for a month and then decide whether to continue.

For more information or a free pre-group interview, email me at earley.jay@gmail.com.

Webinar: Introduction to Interactive Groups & Training Groups

This webinar introduces both regular Interactive Groups and the Interactive Training Group. Learn about how Interactive Groups work and how they can help you grow in the way you relate to others. Learn about how the Interactive Training Group operates and how you will learn to be an effective group leader/therapist.

Wednesday, January 26
10-11:30 am pacific time (1-2:30pm eastern, 6-7:30 UK)
Click here to enroll.


IFS Webinars Sep 14-17

IFS WebinarsYou’re invited to the following free IFS Webinar Events 

Introduction to Advanced IFS Classes Webinars

Each webinar is an introduction to the Advanced IFS Classes, where you can find out more about how the classes operate and what topics we will be covering.  Read more about the Advanced IFS classes.

Monday, 9/14/15, 4:30 pm pacific  (7:30 pm eastern)
Tuesday, 9/15/15, 10 am pacific (1 pm eastern)  

Click here to enroll for free



Introduction to IFS Webinars

Each webinar is an introduction to Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS), where you will learn how to understand your psyche in terms of parts, heal your wounded inner child parts, and transform your behavior. Read more about the IFS webinar.

Tuesday, 9/15/15, 4:30 pm pacific  (7:30 pm eastern)
Thursday, 9/17/15, 4:00 pm pacific (7:00 pm eastern)

Click here to enroll for free

Feel free to register even if you can’t make the webinars. A replay will be available afterwards.


Exploring Yourself Using IFS Therapy

IFS and the human psycheInternal Family Systems Therapy(SM) (IFS), developed by Richard Schwartz, is based on the understanding that our psyches are made up of different parts or subpersonalities, and it provides a powerful methodology for working with and healing our parts.

One aspect of this is how we explore our parts.

In most forms of therapy, when we want to work with a psychological issue or reaction, we either analyze it intellectually or dive into it emotionally. Let’s look at each of these in turn: In some forms of therapy, you figure out each reaction or feeling using what you know about your psychological makeup and what you can sense or guess about the part. For example, if you have a part that feels hurt and upset whenever you get judged by people, you might remember that you were judged a lot by your father and figure that this part’s sensitivities come from that history. Or you might know that you carry a deep belief that you aren’t worth anything and guess that this part’s reactions happen when that belief is triggered.

This intellectual approach is a good first step, but it is too much based on guesswork and theory and so it can’t give us a full, nuanced understanding of a part. And even if our guesses are right, we aren’t in direct contact with the part or its feelings, so it is difficult to really heal it.

Other forms of therapy take the opposite approach. You become the part and attempt to fully embody it and feel all of its feelings fully. In the above example, you would inhabit that part experientially, feeling it in your body and delving into the depth of the pain it feels for being judged. This approach recognizes that you can learn most about the part by allowing your insights to flow from your experience.

This can work as long as you don’t avoid the part’s feelings. However, many of us have parts that are holding a lot of pain, and we tend to defend against feeling this pain. This makes it quite difficult, in some cases, to fully inhabit the part. Before I discovered IFS, I was unconsciously avoiding dealing with many of my parts that were in pain, though I didn’t realize this at the time. I just directed my work into other areas that kept me away from my childhood pain. I had already done quite a bit of work on the pain from my childhood and thought that I had already worked through most of these issues. I subtly used this as an excuse to avoid them. IFS changed all this, as I explain below.

In addition to the problem of avoiding pain, some parts have pain that is overwhelming or traumatic. It wouldn’t be a good idea to dive into these feelings even it you could. You could be flooded by pain in a way that is harmful. You could be re-exposed to trauma rather than healed. You need to remain centered and in touch with your inner resources while you are approaching pain like this. IFS Provides of method for achieving this.

In IFS, we inhabit our true Self, which is a place of groundedness, curiosity, and compassion. From this place we get to know each of our parts by asking it questions and listening to its responses. These may be in words, or in images, body sensations, emotions, or direct knowing. We aren’t just using intellectual ideas about the part; we are truly listening to what it has to tell us. But we also aren’t just diving into its feelings. We are learning about the feelings experientially, but from the safe vantage point of the Self. If the part starts to overwhelm you with intense feelings, IFS recognizes that you are no longer in Self but have become blended with the part. It provides a variety of techniques for returning you to Self so the situation remains safe, while still keeping you open to the part’s feelings. This way you won’t be harmed or retraumatized.

In addition, by approaching your parts from Self, you are much less likely to be frightened about getting to know parts that are in pain. Therefore you are much less likely to avoid those parts. Once I learned IFS, I no longer had much fear of my painful parts because I knew that I wouldn’t have to endure any more pain than I could tolerate. Whenever the pain becomes too great or too threatening, I simply return to Self. This has allowed me to feel safe in approaching my painful parts. So I have stopped avoiding them, and this has allowed me to engage in some powerful healing.

IFS walks a middle ground between analyzing our parts intellectually and immersing ourselves in their pain. This allows us to explore out parts experientially without the problems of avoidance or retraumatization.