Anybody familiar with Internal Family Systems therapy?
September 8, 2017 6:24 PM   Subscribe

Therapist wants to try Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy with me. I read what little was available on the internet about it and it and it seems simplistic, overly reductionistic, and kind of corny. I like my therapist and am willing to at least give it a shot, but I feel like I'm going into this with a lot of doubt. Can anybody here who has had experience with this give me a less cheesy lowdown on IFS? Or, just tell me more about what you think made it helpful for you, or what your experience was like?

I'm working on a number of issues, but the main issues surround me not being in touch with my body and my needs.

I worry that my therapist, working within IFS model, will expect to hear certain patterns from me ("this part comes out when I feel scared"). I also feel that the concept of the "Self" is very caricatured-- like "oh, whenever you are playful, spontaneous, and creative that's your Self emerging!" Also-- "Firefighters"? Really?

I have done trauma-based CBT before and I think that it wasn't necessarily the CBT exercises that helped me, but rather the general opportunity to feel like I was being listened to by another human on a regular basis.
posted by fernweh to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Maybe have a look at Jay Earley's book:

Specifically, have a look at the appendix in the back for the protocol, IIRC. I don't know how it's practiced clinically, but this book was very helpful to me, working on my own. It's a relatively decent "interface" to the mind, based on a workable theory of mind (protectors, inner children, etc.).
posted by zeek321 at 7:06 PM on September 8, 2017

If you can get past the corney names you might find it very useful. The part that helped me the most was this: our thoughts, feelings and action meet some need in our live. For example, I suppress my anger so that I'm not abandoned. But rather than isolating the angry part of me, IFS asks why am I isolating that part? How can I honor my anger, and see the purpose it serves and integrate it into my self?
If my response to stress is to overspend I can say "oh I'm so terrible I have to stop overspending!" Instead with IFS I would ask " What feeling or thought is my overspending protecting me from?" I can honor the desire to protect my self from fear by overspending and then allow the self to take over when I am stressed instead of overspending.
In other words you are trying to become more self aware and self accepting. You might start by asking yourself: How does not doing IFS serve to protect me? What does my inner critical voice think it is protecting me from? Have I suppressed my ability to be vulnerable and if so, how can I re-claim that ability?
I find IFS worked best if I didn't take the parts as literally parts but as symbols or images that I could use. Hope it works out for you.
posted by SyraCarol at 7:35 PM on September 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

I found it extremely victim-blaming and offensive. It implies that you choose to feel emotions in order to get something , which is insane. We feel emotional pain because we are hurt, the same way we feel physical pain if someone stabs us.
posted by Violet Hour at 10:58 PM on September 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

My gut here is to cite (or rather make vague reference to--it's been a long while since grad school) the stuff that says that approach makes less difference than the therapeutic alliance. If you feel like your therapist is generally a good fit, maybe try it and see where it goes. Nobody uses one pure methodology anyway. There's always other stuff in there.
posted by Smearcase at 12:54 PM on September 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Here is a citation to the kind of research that Smearcase was talking about. They conclude
Common factors such as empathy, warmth, and the therapeutic relationship have been shown to correlate more highly with client outcome than specialized treatment interventions.

I think the kind of concerns that you offer are certainly a possibility but it reflects a formulaic, heave-handed use of the approach. You already have a relationship with the therapist. Hopefully, whatever specific techniques she/he uses will be done in a way that continues to makes you feel listened to and respected while also opening up new ways to think about your experiences.
posted by metahawk at 9:11 PM on September 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

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