Internal Family Systems

The Internal Family Systems Model (IFS), first developed by Richard C. Schwartz, is an integrative approach to individual psychotherapy that combines systems thinking with the view that mind is made up of separate subpersonalities, each with its own viewpoint and qualities. The focus of IFS therapy is to get to know each of these subpersonalities and understand how they work as a whole in order to better achieve healing. IFS can be used to treat individuals, couples, and families and it has been shown to be effective for treating a variety issues, including depression, anxiety, and panic. Think this approach might be right for you? Reach out to one of TherapyDen’s Internal Family Systems specialists today.

Meet the specialists


IFS is my primary modality for individual counseling because it is both highly effective and relatively easy for most people to work with, across a range of issues. It can help bring clarity to all the myriad parts of a complex human being dealing with complex life issues. I find that IFS also supports differentiation of self, which is key to personal freedom and relationship success.

— Kelly Arthur, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist Intern in Portland, OR

Ever heard (or said), "One part of me wants this, while the other part wants that"? Well, those parts are real! We are wonderfully complex creatures, made up of countless identities and sub-identities that don't always agree. Helping the "family system" that lives inside us to get along better means less suffering and more joy.

— Jesse Cardin, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in San Antonio, TX

Been using IFS since I started private practice and have done their online training. Enrolled in the full training this coming fall. Consider IFS to be the foundation of my work and the lens with which I see the human psyche and experience.

— Michelle Raine, Mental Health Counselor in Seattle, WA

IFS is an approach for dealing with the different parts of ourselves that may have become damaged as a result of childhood trauma or relational injury (such as divorce). It is helpful in quickly identifying the source of our anxiety/fear or destructive behavior, then working toward effectively resolving the internal conflict so that we can operate from a healthier, more whole personhood.

— Aaron Potratz, Counselor in Tigard, OR

I have been trained in and practicing IFS since 1994. I have completed levels 1, 2 and 3, and been a program assistant for several level 1 trainings. I attend as many of the conferences as I can and participate in the online circle as well to continue to enhance my skill and profiency. This approach is what informs all the other approaches and techniques I utilize.

— Tina Ottman-Boykin, Counselor in Plymouth, WI

Through my readings I began utilizing Internal Family Systems in my work with trauma clients. The theory speaks of externalizing symptoms, ways of thinking, patterns of behaving into particular modes or states. Central to each individual is the concept of Self-a wise, calm state of being that is able to think and see clearly. In assessing Self and these different modes, I help clients to see the context of each of their symptoms and to not be flooded by any particular emotion.

— Jeremy Cooper, Licensed Professional Counselor in Richardson, TX

I have completed Level I of Internal Family Systems training through the IFS Institute and practice this work regularly. I find that IFS incorporates the best insights of psychodynamic therapy in a pragmatic, accessible, and transformative relationship between the self and our conflicting parts. It is a different way of doing therapy than most are used to doing, in that the relationship between client and therapist becomes secondary to your relationship with your own "parts" of self.

— Anthony Rella, Licensed Mental Health Counselor in SEATTLE, WA

Internal Family Systems is built on the understanding that there are many parts that makeup who we are. Though all these parts developed at a certain time to help us deal with stress, some of them have reactions that aren't helping us anymore. In IFS we work to develop an understanding of how the parts of you interact, gradually developing a great sense of Self and ability to take self-leadership of your internal world.

— Elliot Huemann, Counselor in Seattle, WA

I have been using Internal Family Systems in the therapy room for as long as I have been in mental health. I understand IFS from both the client and counselor perspective. I continue to educate myself on the most useful and appropriate ways to use IFS in session.

— Laura Wood, Counselor in Seattle, WA

Many of my therapeutic interventions are derived from Internal Family Systems (IFS). Also known as "parts work," IFS suggests that individuals are made up of various "parts," and we are not one unitary identity as we often view ourselves to be. An individual's various parts (which can also be thought of as thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and body sensations) have different wants, needs, and emotions, and can often conflict with each other. Please see my website for more info about IFS.

— Arielle Fettman, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist Intern in Portland, OR

IFS, or "parts work," is a great way for clients to uncover what their symptoms are trying to do for them and heal old wounds. I integrate IFS with Acceptance Commitment Therapy and Movement Therapy, so my approach is customized for each client.

— Megan "Megz" Roberts Roberts, Therapist in Chicago, IL

IFS is my main treatment orientation. It is the most effective and rewarding healing tool I have found. IFS helps you experience healing, self-love, and inner harmony. IFS is helpful if you feel torn, disconnected, at war with yourself, or are experiencing uncomfortable thoughts, emotions, or behaviors you can’t understand. It may include working with the inner child, the inner critic, and all the parts of you which make you unique. It is experiential, imaginative and sometimes even fun!

— Emma Donovan, Counselor in St. Louis, MO

Internal Family Systems is a modality that allows each of us to honor and cultivate compassionate curiosity around the multiplicity of who we are. We each have parts of ourselves that we bear to the world and those that we keep hidden in the dark - I believe there is a sacred relationship between all of these parts as they exist in harmony and chaos within each of us. Bringing awareness to these parts helps us understand ourselves and the roots of our trauma from an integrative perspective.

— Letecia Garcia, Psychotherapist in Philadelphia, PA

I'm a Level 3 Certified Internal Family Systems Therapist and find IFS as organic, intuitive and effective. We are a multiplicity of parts and in getting to know them, we develop internal coherence and comfort. After all, as people, we all want to be seen, heard, understood and acknowledged. What holds for others, also holds for our internal parts. Working with your parts allows you to honor "the holes within the whole" of your being and thus honor all that you are.

— Benita Silver, Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Asheville, NC

One of the main roadmaps I use is called Internal Family Systems. I believe people are made up of ‘parts’ and that every part is important to know and welcome into the room. Everything you do has a purpose and a good intention (even if the impact is harmful) and makes sense within the context of your life.

— Arianna Smith, Licensed Professional Counselor in Littleton, CO

Internal Family Systems (IFS) utilizes the concept that all individuals are made up of a core self that is capable, healthy and healing. In addition to the self, there are parts that play vital roles in securing survival and safety for the system. Often these parts are in conflict with each other and can create an inconsistent

— Lori Crowley, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Orinda, CA

"Parts Work" involves accessing positive aspects of the self that were wounded at different times in our lives. Early wounding, in particular, necessitated those parts to go into hiding in the unconscious for survival. For protection, those parts may appear to us now as negative aspects, e.g., as the critic, the undeserving one, the shamed one, so we won't want to look at them. Through dialogue, we can find out how these part have served us, what they need, and how we can help them heal.

— Renee Beck, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist

Have a background working at a residential/outpatient treatment facility based in IFS, and continue to refer to the model. Thinking of true self and parts of the psyche has been helpful to most of my clients to move past many of their problematic behaviors/thought patterns and to get to how we can heal their attachment wound.

— Kelley Goodwin, Licensed Professional Counselor in Atlanta, GA

Have you ever felt torn over what to do in a given situation? Ever feel like there's a war in your mind? If so, internal family systems (IFS) can help you navigate these parts of yourself that keep you stuck and recycling unhelpful patterns. Katie applies IFS to her work with college students, trauma survivors, women experiencing separation or divorce, and people wrestling with deep shame. She appreciates the creative, client-led aspects of IFS and the deep healing she has seen through IFS work.

— b'well counseling services, Licensed Professional Counselor in Lutherville, MD

When I first experienced IFS it was as a client and I felt like someone had given me a road map to my inner world. This modality has given me the confidence to be able to sit with so many different people. To help clients understand entrenched patterns and slowly as well as compassionately untangle them. Of all the modalities I use, this is the only one that makes clients say, "Wow! I have never thought about "it" like that before!" When I hear that I know we have made a breakthrough!

— Vicki Smith, Licensed Professional Counselor in Atlanta, GA

Internal Family Systems is the framework that works best for online therapy in my practice, with both couples and individuals. It is a natural fit for how I understand human struggles, imperfections and repetition of problematic behaviors. I love the non-pathologizing nature of this approach to therapy and it fits with my view of human struggle and transformation.

— Megan Zesati, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Austin, TX

While I am not certified in IFS, I have completed the Master Class in IFS and in have trained in Robin Shapiro's Ego State therapy.

— Heidi Dalzell, Clinical Psychologist in Newtown, PA

I was fortunate to have a professor in graduate school trained by Richard Schwartz and who worked primarily with IFS. In my practice, I use IFS to help clients differentiate themselves from their strong feelings, thoughts, and sometimes physical sensations. Next we work to use the client's core self or intuition to heal the painful feelings and to redirect their most destructive impulses. I believe that all of our habits and thoughts are essentially trying to help us but often need a little help

— Whitney Roberts, Marriage & Family Therapist in Parker, CO

I love using IFS principles to guide the work that I do with clients. We are made up of many ego parts from across our lifespan and these parts have an impact on us today. They direct thoughts and affect our perceptions. They subtly and sometimes not so subtly direct our bodies to act even in ways that we are trying to avoid. Without awareness of these parts and their role in our lives, we often fall victim to their impulses.

— Todd Graves, Marriage & Family Therapist in , UT

I've completed two years of training in Internal Family Systems. This style of therapy acknowledges that we all have a variety of "parts" within us. Walt Whitman captured the essence of this approach in his poem Song of Myself: Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself; (I am large, I contain multitudes.) Welcoming the many multitudes we all contain is the heart of this style of therapy.

— Kerry Ogden, Licensed Professional Counselor in Portland, OR

Have you ever felt at odds with yourself, or with something that you felt driven or obligated to do? Internal Family Systems is a perspective that focuses on all of the aspects of a person, and helps ease the arguments that nearly all of us have going on inside ourselves.

— Eric Mills, Counselor in Federal Way, WA

I've completed two years of training in Internal Family Systems. This style of therapy acknowledges that we all have a variety of "parts." Walt Whitman captured the essence of this approach in his poem Song of Myself: Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself; (I am large, I contain multitudes.) Welcoming the many multitudes we all contain is the heart of this style of therapy.

— Kerry Ogden, Licensed Professional Counselor in Portland, OR