Internal Family Systems Therapy

A central tenet of achieving a thriving life in mind, body, spirit, and relationships is to have a healthy relationship with yourself. At Four Corners Counseling and Well-being, we use the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model to help our clients be their best selves and live their best lives.

Hetty Irmer Barnett, LICSW is a certified IFS therapist, and provides IFS therapy for individuals, couples, and other therapists. All other Four Corners therapists incorporate IFS tools and framework into their therapy with clients.

What is Internal Family Systems?

The Internal Family Systems Model is a comprehensive approach to therapy that includes guidelines for working with individuals, couples, and children. IFS focuses on the subpersonalities—or parts—that reside within each of us. The parts—managers, firefighters, and exiles—each have valuable qualities and are designed to play a valuable role. However, the parts can be forced into unhealthy roles due to traumatic or unfortunate life circumstances. Once circumstances appear safe, the parts can transform back into valuable family members.

In addition to the parts, everyone is at their core a “Self” containing many crucial leadership qualities such as perspective, confidence, compassion, and acceptance. The Self could also be an active healing presence. Once a person’s parts learn to trust that they don’t have to protect so much and can allow the Self to lead, the Self becomes present for all their decisions and interactions. Even during a crisis, Self-led people are able to hold their center rather than getting lost in their emotions. Self-led people become the “I” in the storm.

What conditions is IFS especially helpful for?

As a clinical treatment, IFS has been rated effective for improving general functioning and well-being. In addition, it has been rated promising for improving phobia, panic, and generalized anxiety disorders; trauma resolution; physical health conditions; personal resilience/self-concept; and depression and depressive symptoms.

In a practical sense, how can IFS help?

Internal Family Systems can help clients learn ways to better relate to themselves, and move toward the 8 C’s of Self-Leadership: calmness, curiosity, clarity, compassion, confidence, creativity, courage, and connectedness.

IFS helps people learn to operate from a seat of guidance. Each person has an internal crew that needs to be nurtured, considered, and given a voice. Working in this model helps clients to not just act out of stress or trauma-response. We have a lot more choices in how we experience a challenging situation, how to process it, and how to respond.

I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.
— Louisa May Alcott