What is a Session That Utilizes Parts Work Like?

In my last blog I discussed what parts work or Internal Family systems Theory is. In today’s blog I will discuss what to expect from a session that utilizes this technique.

All sessions begin with a check in, which provides you with an opportunity to discuss what feels relevant for you. As we are working towards specific goals, I will assist you in connecting present concerns to the goals you have set. From there, we will either pick up where we left off in a previous session, or utilizing your current concerns I will assist you in using this material to access your internal environment. I will do this through a series of somatic, or body-oriented exercises to help you connect to different parts that are currently activated. For example, a person who is experiencing fear that their partner may leave them may be asked to think about this fear and then scan their body to see what they notice. This may lead them to sense a body sensation, a visual image, or an inner awareness of a part’s existence.

I will then ask the person how they feel towards the part. If they are feeling anything other than curiosity and compassion, then another part is activated. I will then guide them through a visualization meditation to assist them in accessing their Self and unblending from all activated parts. In parts work, the Self is not a part. It is an aspect of a person that they are born with that is unaffected by difficult experiences. When a person is in Self they are compassionate, curious, creative, non-judgmental, and calm. In parts work it is the Self that assists the other parts in healing their wounds from past experiences. Once I have assisted a person in accessing Self, I will assist them in getting to know the targeted part.

Often targeted parts are protectors that have taken on coping skills to keep a younger hurt part from getting hurt again. The younger hurt parts are called exiles because protectors have exiled them to protect the Self from being overwhelmed with feelings of sadness, fear, or shame. From Self, I will assist you in getting to know the protector so that you can better understand the role this part plays in your life and so you can identify when this part is activated. Once a person learns to do this they will learn techniques to unblend from the part so they can make decisions from Self. Once they understand the protectors role, I assist them in getting the protectors permission to step aside and relax so we can get to know the exile they are protecting.

Once this happens the person may again sense a body sensation, an image or get an awareness of a younger part. We repeat the process with this part getting to know and understand it from Self. Once we have gotten to know that part I utilize a series of other interventions, such as EMDR, to assist the exile in healing from the wounds they are holding from their past. Then utilizing parts work I assist the person, from Self, in reparenting and unburdening the exiled parts wounds and hurts (fears, sadness, memories, etc.) and I assist them in bringing the part to the present moment with a series of guided visualizations.

Once we have healed the exile, I guide the person in reconnecting with the protector and we work with the protector to see if it witnessed the healing, what it feels about the healing, and if it is willing to take on another job that is more adaptive to Self. Most often, parts are willing to do this. This technique is repeated with every protector and exile until all parts have awareness of each other and their roles. Then Self can step into the driver’s seat to guide all parts as a team to manage the person’s life.

Some clients are nervous about the idea that they have multiple parts, as they fear that this means they are not normal or have multiple personalities. I want to reassure you that everyone has developed aspects of self that cope with stress in different ways. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with you, it means that you are resilient and adapting to your environment in an attempt to keep yourself safe. These parts are just different moods or coping skills.

There are some other exercises that are utilized in parts work. They include:

  • Keeping a journal
  • Using diagrams to illustrate relationships between parts
  • The room technique.In this exercise one part watches as the Self interacts with another part (with which the observing part is polarized). This technique is used to bring polarized parts together.

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