A person is keeping their hands on their face while sitting on a bed in front of a window

When it comes to psychological healing, there are many therapies that psychotherapists use to treat trauma and Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapy is one of them. It is often considered a controversial therapy because it directly targets your deepest traumas but is done in a safe, collaborative environment. 

What is IFS Therapy?

Developed by Richard Schwartz in the early 1990s, IFS is rooted in the belief that the mind is naturally multiple and that it is composed of various parts, each with its distinct viewpoints, emotions, and memories. These parts interact within a person’s internal system in ways that are similar to the interactions within a family. With IFS therapy, you are able to balance different parts of you that make you whole. 

Central to IFS therapy is the concept of the Self, which is the core of an individual, characterised by qualities such as confidence, compassion, and calmness. In IFS therapy, your psychotherapist will help you identify and address the different parts of the self—particularly those that are wounded or burdened. These parts are often in conflict and can cause psychological distress when they feel they need to protect the individual from pain.

How does trauma and IFS therapy work? 

Trauma can disrupt your internal systems. Parts of the self that hold trauma can become extreme, protective, and isolated, which often leads to problematic behaviours or intense emotions that seem uncontrollable. One of the advantages of IFS therapy is that it takes a non-pathologizing stance toward internal parts. It views no part as inherently negative, recognizing that every part has a positive intention, even if its actions can be destructive. 

A person's hands appear to be stiff because of trauma or nervousness

How does IFS Therapy help with trauma? 

At the core of IFS therapy is the concept of the Self, composed of the eight C’s—confidence, calmness, creativity, clarity, curiosity, courage, compassion, and connectedness—and the five P’s—presence, patience, perspective, persistence, and playfulness. 

The IFS considers that yourSelf is the essence of who they truly are. It is a Self that is a source of healing and wisdom, unburdened by traumatic experiences. Among the many parts to you, IFS holds these three the most important: 

  • Firefighters: These parts react when triggered to extinguish emotional pain through immediate, often destructive actions like substance abuse or other compulsive behaviours.
  • Managers: These parts strive to prevent traumatic memories or painful emotions from surfacing by controlling behaviour and preemptively managing situations.
  • Exiles: These are the wounded parts, often carrying the most painful, traumatic memories and emotions, which firefighters and managers work to keep suppressed.

How does IFS help you heal? 

IFS follows a process that releases traumas, burdens, and develops strategies to overcome difficult emotions in the future. They are: 

  • Find and Focus: IFS therapy begins by turning inward, often through meditation, to identify and focus on a specific part, starting with sensations in the body that relate to emotional pain.
  • Flesh Out: You learn more about this part—its emotions, visual or age representation, and its intentions.
  • Feel Toward and Befriend: Your psychotherapist helps you explore your feelings toward this part with understanding and compassion. You have to recognise the positive intent of these feelings, even if their actions are problematic and unpredictable. 
  • Fear: Finally, understanding the fears of this part—what it is afraid would happen if it did not perform its protective role—helps to integrate it healthily.

As an online trauma therapist in Ontario, I use Internal Family Systems Therapy as one of the tools in your healing journey and have seen my clients overcome trauma with compassion and confidence. 

I would love to help you with the same. Let’s talk today!

Jennifer Pinto

When it comes to psychological healing, there are many therapies that psychotherapists use to treat trauma and Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapy is one of them. It is often considered a controversial therapy because it directly targets your deepest traumas but is done in a safe, collaborative environment.  What is IFS Therapy? Developed by Richard…

Hi, I am Jennifer Pinto. I am a registered Social Worker and obtained my Masters' Degree from University of Toronto in 2010 with a specialization in Children and Families. I also completed an Honors BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from York University in 2003.

For more than 20 years I've worked with various populations and different settings ranging from pediatric healthcare, mental health community agencies and education systems.

https://jenniferpintopsychotherapy.ca/