What is Parts Work or Internal Family Systems?

I utilize a technique called Internal Family Systems Theory which draws upon aspects of Family Systems Theory. Specifically the idea that an individual can best be understood in relationship to the family unit. Therapy is focused on developing techniques and strategies that effectively address issues within the context of how family members impact one another. Drawing upon the concept of a family unit, Internal Family Systems Theory is an evidence-based approach that assumes each individual possesses a variety of sub-personalities, or “parts” that are impacting one another and causing internal conflicts (i.e. an anxious part may be hyper-alert of the external environment in an attempt to protect a sad part from being attacked by others because that sad part experienced a similar wounding in the past). Through parts work the client attempts to get to know each of these parts better to achieve healing.

I utilize parts work to assist you in identifying your parts, learning how they function individually and as a system, and how the overall system reacts to one another. Often these parts are hidden within our unconscious awareness and each part has its own likes, dislikes, burdens, and history that lead it to act in distinct ways to achieve self-preservation for the person in therapy (i.e. a sad part may self-isolate in an attempt to protect the individual from being hurt or abandoned by others).

From an Internal Family Systems approach, all parts are well-intending so all parts are welcomed, validated, and recognized as important to the system as a whole. Parts may be identified as having either healthy and productive roles or extreme roles that lead to maladaptive coping skills. It is these extreme parts that need assistance in the therapeutic process.

The five basic assumptions of the Internal Family Systems model are:

• The human mind is subdivided into an unknown number of parts.

• Each person has a Self that has the highest good of the individual in mind at all times, and therefore the Self should be the chief agent in coordinating the inner family.

• Parts engaging in non-extreme behavior are helpful to the individual. There is no such thing as a “bad part.” Therapy aims to help parts discover their non-extreme roles.

• Personal growth and development leads to the development of the internal family. Interactions between parts become more complex, allowing for systems theory to be applied to the internal system. Reorganization of the internal system may lead to rapid changes in the roles of parts.

• Adjustments made to the internal system will result in changes to the external system and vice versa. Therefore, both the internal and external systems need to be adequately assessed.

Parts take on extreme roles when an individual has experienced difficult things and they have not had the ability to heal from the experiences. As these difficult experiences accumulate and parts develop, Self is hidden from view. In our work together, I will help you to reconnect to the Self. This is the aspect of you that represents the seat of consciousness and is who each person is at their core. It is important to understand that Self demonstrates many positive qualities such as acceptance, confidence, calmness, wisdom, compassion, connectedness, leadership and perspective. Unlike parts, the Self is never seen. Instead it is the witnessing “I” in the inner world. In other words it is this aspect of you that does the observing.

By assisting you in reconnecting to your Self and getting to know your parts from Self, I will help you to unburden the difficult experiences your parts have been holding in order to restore extreme, wounded parts to a healthy state. I will assist you in achieving and maintaining a state of Self, as well as teach you how to counsel your own internal family system. This is done by establishing a trusted, healthy, harmonious internal system that is coordinated by the Self. As a result you will experience an increased internal harmony that often results in positive thoughts and behaviors not only in your internal states but in your external relationships.

If this way of working seems interesting to you, please feel free to contact me for a free 20 minute consultation at allison@blossomingheartcounseling.com or 503-880-7190