INTERNAL FAMILY SYSTEM THERAPY
Neuroscience research has shown that IFS access and heals brain networks that cause various types of human suffering, psychologically, physically, and behaviorally. IFS helps clients create an internal sense of safety and connection by integrating right-brain-to-left-brain treatment methods.
Issues treated with IFS therapy include:
Internal Family Systems Therapy
Internal Family Systems (IFS) is an evidence-based and non-pathologizing approach to psychotherapy that combines systems thinking in which the person works with the therapist to identify and understand different parts of the person that make up the internal mental system. Once you identify these parts, the therapist will help you acknowledge your feelings about these suppressed emotions and learn how to release these feelings. Hence, you are freer to address the actual problem and ultimately find more positive ways to manage conflicts independently.
IFS explains that the traditional idea of the unitary personality is as misleading as the idea of a single unitary ‘brain. Each of us contains a multiplicity of selves as the conscious left brain and the unconscious right-brain self-system process information and represent them very differently. One common example is the dilemma that occurs when someone irritates us. In these moments, a part of us wants to escape, while another part holds us back from doing so, telling us to be nice. These two networks in our brains struggle against one another for our attention and compliance. Sometimes the “be nice” network may take over so that we hold our anger in, expressing nothing, forcing the anger network to stay active and express itself in other ways (like muscle tension, physical pain, overeating, taking anger out on others, passive aggressiveness, substance use, etc.).
At other times, after a final straw, the angrier network may take over and start saying things that we later regret. Afterward, we may not even remember exactly what we said but find ourselves feeling guilt, regret, and fear- these are other networks that have taken over after our anger network recedes. This happens constantly throughout our day in various ways. Yet, we can get into a place of mindfulness where we can observe and influence how this happens rather than experience it happening to us without any sense of agency whatsoever.
Trauma is a memory stored difunctionally in memory neuro networks. But, for this memory to be stored, it is necessary to be exposed to situations classified as traumatic events. So, when there are many traumatic memories, clusters of neuro-networks of memories are maladapted. These maladaptive neuro-networks seem to form sub-minds, or what in IFS are called parts. So, by accessing these parts and talking to them, we can create new neural connections with these maladaptive memories to process them. IFS uses plain language to identify problems. For example, a patient may have a suicidal part, a self-harming part, a compulsive eating part, and a socially anxious part, a working part, a super breast part, each requiring different approaches.
Neuroscience has proven it is possible for networks of neurons to be accessed and modified through purposeful interactions with them. IFS provides a simple way of “hacking” into our human operating system by getting into a natural equilibrium of compassionate self-awareness (which in IFS is called Self), from which we can access and communicate with various neuron networks in ways that are intuitive and natural, helping them to relax and adjust, as well as release painful feelings and beliefs as needed. This process can reach and modify networks in us that we are often less aware of, and it is a gentle process that helps and leaves the client in complete conscious control of the process.
Issues treated with IFS.
IFS is used to treat various mental health conditions and psychological wounds. It may be applied in family, couple, and individual situations. As of November 2015, this type of therapy is listed in the National Registry for Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) as an evidence-based practice. It is effective for improving general emotional and mental well-being and has been rated as promising to improve symptoms of phobia, panic, generalized anxiety, depression, and certain physical ailments.