Sharing another writers description of Internal Family Systems parts work

I like to read different writers describe their understanding and experience with Internal Family Systems therapy. Different writers express their understanding of IFS in different tones, and they highlight different aspects of the process.

This morning, I found myself appreciating this one.

Here's a quote that eloquently describes that Internal Family Systems, while it is a psychotherapy model, is much more of an experience than it is "talk therapy."

IFS takes Jungian work a step farther– past ‘talk’ therapy (where we speak about the complex) into an intimate, respectful encounter where the complex (part) can speak for itself to a new relationship with an attentive, compassionate, curious Self. I was in analysis for several years previous to my training at the C.G. Jung Institute and analysis continued throughout the five and a half years at the Institute (300 hours of personal analysis are required to become a Jungian Analyst). So for nearly ten years, my ‘complexes’ were scrupulously journaled, painted, walked through labyrinths, detected in association experiments, danced and endlessly discussed. They entered (or were dragged) into years of psychodramas. In exasperation or to highlight our therapeutic insight, we students would point them out to each other (“I think you are in a complex..”). These insights were rarely happily received. Safe to say, I knew a lot about my complexes. I knew the stories inside out.

Not until I began working with a ‘parts’ therapist who invited the parts to speak for themselves were they willing to shift. Not until they were invited to speak directly–to express their point of view, feelings, history in their own words to me (who was now present and connecting through ‘self energy’) and the therapist– did they feel heard and seen. It would be like working with a troubled family in which most of the family stays home and is subsequently described by other members. The storyteller may arrive at some understanding but the rest of the family would remain untouched. In my ongoing therapy, and with my clients, parts regularly express surprise (or astonishment) that they are finally given a chance to speak for themselves and that, most importantly, their Self is now present and willing to listen. The healing is in that relationship.

Many times parts have thanked me for respecting their autonomy and giving them the chance to speak their own truth which usually differs in tone and content from the ‘story’ through which one part has learned to understand the past. When I say they thank ‘me’, I mean that when I am in ‘self’ energy and connect with them, they have learned that they are in a stable system in which the leadership is restored. There will be no more ‘coups’. The parts will be respected no matter how the managers judge them. It is a democracy. With that shift in my inner world, I experience a feeling of refreshment, of space, of possibility.

For me, this is the real beauty of IFS.
— Mary-Anne Johnston

As Dick has said so many many times, "IFS is more than a therapeutic technique, it is a conceptual framework and practice for developing love for ourselves and each other."

Thanks for reading!