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.

Need help finding the right therapist?
Find Your Match

Meet the specialists


Internal family systems, or IFS, is a transformative type of therapy that believes we are all made up of several parts or sub-personalities, some of which are wounded. These wounded parts can carry painful emotions such as anger and shame. The goal of IFS therapy is to restore balance and harmony within the internal system by healing the wounded parts and learn to manage inner conflict in healthier ways.

— Carmen F Juneidi, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Chicago, IL

IFS identifies and works with the sub-personalities or “families” that exist in each person’s psyche. These sub-personalities — for example, the Inner Critic — represent the places within us that are wounded and store painful emotions that conflict with each other and our core, or divine, essence. I received over a year of individual supervision and consultation to guide my growth and ability to use IFS well.

— Thaeda Franz, Licensed Professional Counselor

There is a wise core “Self” to each person, along with other “parts” which intend to be helpful but can take on unhealthy roles or “burdens”. These burdens can manifest in a myriad of ways. Parts associated with trauma and shame are often pushed down or “exiled” out of awareness. When they emerge, other parts work to suppress them. This blocks access to core Self, where they can be healed. Helping all your parts get access to core Self is a big part of the work we can do.

— Melissa Hartley, Licensed Professional Counselor Associate in Gresham, OR

I have been using the concept of "parts" and "inner voices" since before beginning my clinical practice, based on the work of Hal and Sidra Stone. The additional structure and training in IFS has helped me refine and strengthen this helpful tool. I've attended workshops and trainings, as well as online classes and readings to deepen my understanding and use of IFS.

— Kirsti Reeve, Licensed Professional Counselor in Ferndale, MI

IFS composts much of what we've been told about who we are and what we know about healing. IFS insists that your inner world is complex; that there is literally an internal family system within you. You have parts who want to protect you from harm and parts who have been harmed who they intensely protect. You also have a Self, an energy of calm interconnectedness.

— Ashley Gregory, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in East Bay, CA

I have used IFS to treat a wide variety of mental health conditions and psychological wounds. I've applied it in relationship and individual counseling.

— Jules Allison, Professional Counselor Associate in Portland, OR

What I like about IFS is that it's very intuitive. As we go through life, difficult experiences can lead us to create defense mechanisms that we put in place to protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable. Although those protective parts are necessary and helpful to our survival, sometimes they can go on overdrive and overtake our entire being. IFS can ease those protective parts so that we can feel more connected to our pre-traumatized selves and learn to once again, live a full & balance life

— Sayuri (Julie) Heinl, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Arlington, VA

IFS was developed by Richard Schwartz PhD in the early 1990s and has since been listed in the National Registry for Evidence-Based Programs and Practices. In the model’s name, Internal Family Systems, lies the belief that we all have a psychological system made up of a constellation of parts (or family members) that are in need of reconciliation. We approach the following topics from an IFS framework: Chronic Stress, trauma, anxiety, depression, anger issues, self-esteem, grief.

— IFS Telehealth Collective, Therapist in New York, NY

Transform your life with this powerful, evidenced-based model to embody more of your core Self. There are multiple parts of you (i.e., sub-personalities) which may have emotional and relational injuries. There may also be other multiple protector parts of you (i.e., managers & firefighters) who try to control and defend you from the wounded parts. IFS will help you unburden your parts that need attention to intention and client-centered care to welcome & heal all of the parts of your Self.

— Matthew Braman, Licensed Clinical Social Worker

IFS takes the approach that we all have an inner world made up of of parts that want to help us, but who have taken on extreme roles in an effort to keep us safe. These extreme parts become less disruptive and more cooperative once their concerns are addressed and they feel safer. IFS is a research-supported therapy with established efficacy. It feels like doing family therapy in your head! When you listen to all your parts, and access your core Self, you can heal your wounded parts.

— Roberta Ballard, Psychologist in Marietta, GA

Level 1 & 2 Trained with IFS Institute, pursuing full certification

— Erika Barrington, Licensed Professional Counselor

Internal Family Systems, or parts work, helps us to gain awareness into the different parts of ourselves and what functions they serve. IFS also helps us to see how our internal parts are communicating with each other, such as when we are having an inner conflict, or a defense mechanism comes up to protect us from pain. As a "Fun IFS Fact", the Pixar movie "Inside Out", although more simplistic, has been deemed to have some parts work credibility from the found of IFS himself.

— Angela Shankman, Therapist in Agoura Hills, CA

Internal Family Systems therapy comes from the belief that we are all made up of "parts". We all have parts of ourselves that fulfill healthy and unhealthy roles. Have you ever had an internal argument with yourself? IFS takes each "part" and processes what it is trying to do. Most parts are simply trying to protect us in some way, and again I bring in work on self-compassion toward each "part" of ourselves.

— Heather Kalso, Clinical Social Worker

We are all made up of different parts that contain valuable qualities and we all have an inner Self that knows how to heal, allowing us to become integrated and whole. Together, we can get to know these different parts, hear their stories, and release their burdens all while establishing more trust in the Self allowing you to feel more integrated and whole.

— Lindsay Anderson, Professional Counselor Associate in , OR

People naturally understand that they have different parts of their personality. Internal Family Systems builds on this way of understanding ourselves. When I integrate this model into my work, my clients are able to bring more compassion, courage, calm and creativity to themselves and others. This helps bring more satisfaction into their lives and relationships.

— Beth Levine, Clinical Social Worker in Rockville, MD

IFS welcomes all of you into the room. Your scared parts. Your bold parts. Your hedonistic, critical, joyful, depressed, shut down, sad parts. We are all complex humans. We have internal conflicts, coping strategies we’ve outgrown, deep hurts we’re carrying. As an IFS therapist, I support you in learning to embrace your whole being. As you connect deeply to your inner landscape, you will find more compassion, acceptance, and understanding for yourself.

— Augustin Kendall, Counselor in Minneapolis, MN

Internal Family Systems (IFS) is my primary treatment modality for individuals. I help clients recognize internal conflicts that are keeping them paralyzed and holding them back from healing. IFS helps me identify root cause issues that can persist for years and through this identification, clients can learn to self-soothe and move forward.

— Catherine Reynolds, Clinical Psychologist in Atlanta, GA

I use IFS to help you understand parts of yourself and how they are working as resources in response to life stress. We will use IFS together to help your parts work as resources towards your emotional wellness.

— Mariah Jeremiah, Clinical Social Worker in LAS VEGAS, NV