What Is Internal Family Systems® Therapy? A Complete Guide

Administrator / Chief Clinical Officer
Certified cognitive-behavioral therapist, expert addiction and chemical dependency counselor, certified for more than twenty years of experience in adolescent, adult and family psychotherapy.
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The consequences of addiction are far-reaching, affecting not just individuals struggling with it, but also their families, relationships, and broader communities. 

The need for effective and compassionate approaches to address addiction is crucial.

Internal Family Systems (IFS)®  is a transformative therapeutic model that brings a fresh perspective to understanding and treating addiction. 

Developed by Dr. Richard Schwartz in the 1990s, IFS views the mind as composed of multiple sub-personalities or “parts”, each with its own unique perspective and emotional landscape. 

We’re all familiar with self-talk, self-doubt, and self-judgment—yet most of us still view ourselves as if we have one uniform mind. 

Dr. Richard Schwartz’s breakthrough was recognizing that we each contain an “internal family” of distinct parts—and that treating these parts with curiosity, respect, and empathy vastly expands our capacity to heal.

It conceives of every human being as a system of protective and wounded inner parts led by a core Self.

IFS seeks to identify and address the underlying emotional and psychological aspects of addiction, promoting internal harmony and self-understanding.

In this article, I’ll explore how the Internal Family Systems model can be a valuable tool in the journey toward recovery from addiction. 

I’ll discuss the principles of IFS, its approach to understanding addictive behaviors, and how it can aid individuals in achieving personal growth and healing. 

This exploration aims to provide insights for those affected by addiction and to offer a compassionate, yet professional perspective on this complex condition.

Depiction of therapists implementing the IFS Model with one of her patients.

What is Internal Family Systems Therapy?

The Internal Family Systems (IFS) model is a transformative and increasingly recognized psychotherapeutic approach. 

It offers a compassionate and empowering framework for understanding and treating a wide range of psychological issues, including addiction, trauma, and anxiety. 

Background of IFS Therapy

Developed in the late 1980s by Dr. Richard Schwartz, a family therapist, IFS integrates concepts from systems thinking, multiplicity of the mind, and psychotherapy to create a unique model for healing and personal growth.

Dr. Schwartz initially observed that many of his clients described experiencing various parts within themselves, each with distinct thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. 

Intrigued by this, Schwartz began to apply systems thinking, commonly used in family therapy, to the internal world of individuals. 

This led to the birth of the IFS Model, which proposed that the mind is naturally multiple and that a core self exists that is distinct from these parts. 

Over the years, IFS has gained prominence and is now recognized for its effectiveness in various clinical settings and its applicability to a wide range of psychological issues.

Key Principles of IFS Therapy

Multiplicity of the Mind 

IFS posits that the mind is made up of multiple sub-personalities, or ‘parts’, each with its unique characteristics, perspectives, and roles. 

These parts are not pathological; rather, they are natural expressions of the mind’s ability to compartmentalize experiences, particularly those related to trauma or stress.

The Self

Central to IFS is the concept of the ‘Self’, which is the core of an individual, characterized by qualities such as compassion, calmness, confidence, and clarity. 

The Self is distinct from the parts and is seen as the natural leader of the internal system.

A young woman on her first day of therapy; her therapist will implement the IFS Model to begin treatment.

The Roles of Parts

In IFS, parts are categorized mainly into three roles—Managers, Firefighters, and Exiles. 

Managers attempt to keep the person safe from harm and emotional pain, often through controlling behaviors. 

Firefighters are parts that react when exiled emotions or experiences are activated, typically engaging in impulsive behaviors to extinguish emotional pain. 

Exiles are often young parts holding painful, traumatic memories and emotions, kept away from conscious awareness by Managers and Firefighters.

Healing through Self-Leadership

The goal of IFS therapy is to restore balance and harmony within the internal system by strengthening the leadership of the Self. 

This involves the Self getting to know each part, understanding their fears and motivations, and addressing the wounded Exiles with compassion and healing.

The Concept of the Self Being Composed of Multiple ‘Parts’

The revolutionary aspect of IFS lies in its view of the psyche as inherently multiple. This perspective challenges the traditional view of a monolithic personality. 

In IFS, these parts develop naturally as a way to manage life’s experiences, particularly those involving trauma or conflict. 

Each part plays a specific role and carries its burdens, such as extreme beliefs and emotions that they have taken on from traumatic experiences.

By acknowledging the existence of these parts, IFS encourages individuals to explore their internal systems in a non-pathologizing way. 

This exploration leads to a deeper understanding of oneself, as individuals recognize how these parts have contributed to their coping mechanisms and overall behavior patterns.

In practice, IFS therapy involves the therapist guiding the client to identify and interact with their parts, facilitating a dialogue between the Self and these parts. 

This dialogue aims to foster understanding, reduce internal conflicts, and integrate these parts more harmoniously. 

As a result, individuals learn to lead their internal system with the Self, achieving greater self-awareness, emotional healing, and behavioral change.

In summary, the Internal Family Systems Model offers a unique and compassionate framework for understanding the complexities of the human psyche. 

By recognizing the multiplicity of the mind and emphasizing the healing role of the Self, IFS provides a path for individuals to explore and heal their internal worlds, leading to profound personal growth and well-being.

A brief depiction of the IFS model; call The Encino Detox if you are suffering from substance abuse.

The Components of the Internal Family Systems Model

The parts in the IFS approach, each with their distinct roles, characteristics, and perspectives, interact within an individual’s internal system. 

Central to the IFS approach is the notion of the ‘Self’, which is seen as the core of an individual’s being, possessing qualities of confidence, compassion, and clarity. 

Understanding the components of the IFS model—Managers, Exiles, Firefighters, and the Self—is crucial in appreciating its therapeutic approach.


Managers are proactive parts that seek to maintain control over the individual’s internal and external environment to protect them from harm or emotional pain. 

These parts often emerge as a response to life’s challenges and traumas, adopting strategies to keep the individual safe. 

Managers can manifest in various forms such as perfectionism, people-pleasing, critical inner voices, or obsessive planning and organizing. 

Their primary goal is to keep more vulnerable parts, especially the Exiles, out of conscious awareness. They strive for stability and predictability, often resisting change that might disrupt the internal status quo.


Exiles are typically young, vulnerable parts that carry the burdens of traumatic experiences, intense emotions, and painful memories. 

These parts are often sequestered away in the individual’s psyche by the Managers, as their emotions and memories are deemed too overwhelming or threatening to the person’s daily functioning. 

Exiles are often the source of deep-seated feelings like fear, shame, loneliness, and worthlessness. 

They remain locked away until they can be accessed and healed in a safe and nurturing environment. 

When Exiles break through to consciousness, often in times of stress or triggered events, they can overwhelm the individual with intense emotions.


Firefighters are parts that react immediately to prevent exiled emotions or memories from surfacing. 

They act swiftly and impulsively, often engaging in behaviors that can be destructive or numbing, such as substance abuse, binge eating, or risky behaviors. 

Firefighters are crisis managers, stepping in when an Exile’s emotions threaten to break through. 

While their actions may seem counterproductive or harmful, their fundamental intention is to protect the individual from the unbearable feelings that Exiles carry.

Interaction of the Parts

In the IFS approach, these parts interact within an individual’s internal system much like members of a family. 

Managers typically take charge, organizing and controlling the internal environment. 

When an Exile’s painful emotions or memories start to surface, the Firefighters leap into action to quell these feelings, often leading to impulsive or harmful behaviors.

This interplay often creates internal conflict and disharmony, as the parts may have conflicting agendas and methods. 

For example, a Manager part may strive for perfectionism at work, while a Firefighter part may engage in excessive drinking to escape stress, both attempting to protect the individual in their own way.

The Role of the ‘Self’ in IFS

The Self is a central concept in IFS, viewed as the person’s core or essence. It’s not a part but rather the individual’s compassionate, confident, and calm center. 

The Self is characterized by qualities such as curiosity, connectedness, compassion, and calmness—often referred to as the “C-qualities” of the Self.

In the IFS model, the Self is seen as the natural leader of the internal system. 

The goal of IFS therapy is to help the individual access the Self and lead the internal system from this grounded and healing center. 

When the Self is leading, it can understand and heal the parts. This involves listening to each part, acknowledging their concerns, and appreciating their roles, thus reducing internal conflicts.

For instance, the Self can approach a Manager with curiosity, understand its protective role, and appreciate its efforts, while also gently reassuring it that its extreme strategies are not necessary. 

Similarly, the Self can offer compassion and healing to Exiles, helping them to release their burdens and integrate into the individual’s internal system more healthily.

Therapeutic Implications

In therapy, IFS focuses on developing the relationship between the Self and the parts. 

The therapist guides the individual to identify and understand their parts, fostering a dialogue between the Self and these parts. 

This process helps in unburdening the parts from their extreme roles and beliefs, leading to a more harmonious internal system.

Through IFS, individuals learn that all parts are valuable and have positive intentions, even if their actions or strategies are maladaptive. 

By promoting self-leadership, understanding, and compassion within the internal system, IFS fosters greater self-awareness, emotional healing, and behavioral change.

In summary, the IFS model provides a unique framework for understanding the complexity of the human psyche. 

By acknowledging and addressing the dynamic interplay of Managers, Exiles, Firefighters, and the Self, IFS offers a path toward personal growth, healing, and integration.

A woman suffering from substance abuse and mental health issues; needs treatment here at The Encino Detox.

IFS and Addiction

Internal Family Systems provides a nuanced and compassionate framework for understanding and addressing addiction. 

In the realm of IFS, addiction is not merely a physical dependency or a moral failing. 

It is a complex interplay of internal parts that have taken extreme roles in an attempt to manage pain and psychological trauma. 

This perspective shifts the focus from the addiction itself to the underlying emotional and psychological dynamics that drive addictive behavior.

Understanding Addiction through the Lens of IFS

In IFS, addictive behavior is seen as a symptom rather than the core problem. 

It’s an attempt by certain parts to protect the individual from experiencing unbearable emotions or memories. 

These parts, often Firefighters in the IFS model, engage in addictive behaviors to numb, distract, or soothe the pain held by other parts, typically the Exiles.

For example, a person who turns to alcohol might have a Firefighter part using alcohol to suppress the intense feelings of an Exile part that carries deep-seated feelings of inadequacy or abandonment from childhood trauma. 

The alcohol serves as a temporary escape, preventing these painful emotions from surfacing.

The Different ‘Parts’ Contributing to Addictive Behavior

Firefighters and Addiction: Firefighters in IFS are the parts that react impulsively to numb or soothe the pain of the Exiles. 

In the context of addiction, these parts engage in substance abuse, binge eating, gambling, or other addictive behaviors as a coping mechanism. 

They intend to protect the individual from emotional pain, but the nature of their coping strategies often leads to addiction.

Managers and Addiction: Managers try to maintain control and prevent the individual from being overwhelmed by emotional pain. 

They may contribute to addictive behaviors by enforcing strict rules or routines that inadvertently increase stress, leading the Firefighters to engage in addictive behavior as a form of relief.

Exiles and Addiction: Exiles carry the emotional pain from past trauma or hurtful experiences. 

When these parts are activated, they can flood the person with intense emotions. 

The Firefighters step in with addictive behaviors to prevent these feelings from overwhelming the person.

Examples of How Parts Contribute to Addictive Behavior

A Manager part might push an individual to work excessively, fostering a stressful environment. To cope with this stress, a Firefighter part may engage in nightly alcohol consumption, leading to alcohol dependency.

An Exile carrying feelings of loneliness and rejection from childhood might lead to overwhelming sadness and isolation. A Firefighter might respond by compulsively using drugs to numb these feelings, creating a cycle of drug abuse.

In a person with an eating disorder, a Manager part might impose strict dietary rules as a way of gaining control. When these rules become too burdensome, a Firefighter part may engage in binge eating to provide temporary relief.

The Role of Trauma and Unprocessed Emotions in Forming Addictive Patterns

At the heart of IFS’s approach to addiction is the understanding that unresolved trauma and unprocessed emotions play a crucial role in the development of addictive behaviors. 

The Exiles carry the burdens of these traumatic experiences and the intense emotions associated with them. 

When these Exiles are ignored or suppressed, the emotional pain doesn’t disappear but manifests in harmful ways, often through addiction.

For example, an individual who experienced emotional neglect in childhood might have an Exile carrying deep feelings of unworthiness and loneliness. 

To avoid feeling these painful emotions, a Firefighter part might resort to opioid use. 

The opioids provide temporary relief from the pain, but this coping mechanism eventually turns into an addiction, further complicating the individual’s emotional and psychological state.

Addressing Addiction through IFS Therapy

IFS therapy for addiction involves identifying and understanding the roles of the different parts involved in the addictive behavior. 

The therapeutic process focuses on establishing a relationship between the Self and these parts, particularly the Firefighters and Exiles. 

By acknowledging the positive intentions of these parts and addressing the underlying emotional pain, individuals can find more adaptive and healthy ways to cope.

In therapy, clients are guided to approach their parts with curiosity and compassion, allowing the Exiles to share their stories and unburden their pain in a safe environment. 

This process helps in reducing the need for the Firefighters to engage in addictive behaviors, as the emotional pain is being addressed directly.

Viewing addiction through the lens of IFS provides a compassionate and comprehensive approach to understanding and treating this complex issue. 

By focusing on the internal parts and their interactions, particularly the role of trauma and unprocessed emotions, IFS offers a path toward healing and recovery that addresses the root causes of addictive behavior.

A young man drinking excessively; needs treatment here at The Encino Detox; call us to get help.

The IFS Approach to Treating Addiction

IFS provides a unique and compassionate approach to treating addiction by focusing on the internal dynamics and parts within an individual. 

IFS views addiction not just as a physical dependency but as a symptom of deeper emotional and psychological issues. By addressing these underlying causes, IFS offers a holistic path to recovery and healing.

Steps in the IFS Therapeutic Process for Addiction

Building Trust and Safety: The initial step involves creating a safe and trusting environment. 

Therapists help clients feel comfortable and ensure that the therapy space is a non-judgmental zone where all parts of the client are welcome.

Identifying Parts: Clients are guided to identify their different parts, particularly those involved in addictive behaviors. 

This may include Managers, Firefighters, and Exiles, each playing a role in the addiction cycle.

Establishing Relationships with Parts: The therapist encourages the client to build relationships with these parts. 

Clients learn to listen to and understand each part’s perspective, fears, and motivations.

Accessing the Self: A critical aspect of IFS therapy is helping clients access their Self, the core of their being characterized by compassion, curiosity, calmness, and clarity. 

The Self is the agent of healing in IFS.

Unburdening the Exiles: Once a trusting relationship is established with the Exiles, the therapy focuses on unburdening these parts from their pain and trauma. 

This is often where deep emotional healing occurs.

Transforming Firefighters and Managers: Clients learn to appreciate the protective roles of Firefighters and Managers and work towards transforming these parts into more positive and less extreme roles.

Integration and Self-Leadership: The final step is integrating all parts into the Self, leading to a more harmonious internal system. 

This fosters greater self-awareness and emotional balance.

Techniques Used in IFS Therapy

Dialogue with Different Parts: Clients engage in conversations with their parts, facilitated by the therapist. 

This dialogue helps clients understand why parts behave in certain ways and what they need to feel safe and valued.

Example: A client with a substance abuse problem might dialogue with a Firefighter part that uses alcohol to numb pain. 

Through conversation, they might discover that this part is trying to protect them from an Exile carrying childhood trauma.

Accessing the Self: Clients are guided to access and stay in the Self. Techniques like mindfulness and guided imagery might be used to help clients distinguish the Self from their parts.

Direct Access Work: The therapist may directly speak to the client’s parts, especially when a part is overwhelming the client’s Self. 

This can help in negotiating for space so that healing can occur.

Unburdening Process: This involves releasing the pain, negative beliefs, and emotions that parts carry. 

Techniques such as guided visualization, writing exercises, or role-playing can be used.

Example: A client might visualize a burden (like a heavy backpack) being taken off an Exile part and notice how that part transforms post-unburdening.

Benefits of IFS in Developing Self-Awareness and Emotional Healing

Increased Self-Awareness: IFS helps individuals understand the multiplicity of their inner world. 

Recognizing and accepting their different parts fosters a deeper sense of self-awareness.

Emotional Regulation and Resilience: By understanding the roles and needs of their parts, clients learn to manage their emotions more effectively. 

This emotional regulation fosters resilience in facing life’s challenges.

Healing Traumatic Experiences: IFS provides a safe space for addressing and healing past traumas. 

This healing significantly reduces the emotional triggers that often lead to addictive behaviors.

Improved Relationships: Understanding one’s parts and how they influence behavior can lead to healthier interactions with others. 

Clients often find that as they become more internally harmonious, their external relationships improve as well.

Reduction in Addictive Behaviors: As clients address the underlying emotional issues and trauma that fuel their addiction, the need for addictive behaviors diminishes. 

This leads to a sustainable recovery path.

Empowerment and Self-Leadership: IFS empowers clients to lead their internal systems from the Self, promoting a sense of control and self-efficacy in their lives.

Holistic Approach: IFS addresses the individual as a whole, considering mental, emotional, physical, and sometimes spiritual aspects, leading to comprehensive healing and growth.

The IFS approach to treating addiction is a profound and effective method that goes beyond mere symptom management. 

By focusing on the internal system of parts and fostering self-leadership, IFS offers a path to lasting recovery, self-awareness, and emotional healing. 

Through its compassionate and inclusive approach, IFS empowers individuals to navigate their recovery journey with understanding and self-compassion.

A man able to have a healthy relationship thanks to the IFS model; call us if you are suffering from substance abuse issues.

Case Studies

The Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapeutic approach has shown remarkable success in the field of psychotherapy, particularly in treating addiction. 

The model’s focus on understanding and integrating various parts of the self has led to profound changes in individuals who have struggled with addiction. 

These case studies illustrate the effectiveness of IFS in facilitating recovery and personal growth.

Case Study 1: Overcoming Alcohol Addiction

John, a 45-year-old man, struggled with alcohol addiction for over two decades. His drinking began as a social activity but gradually turned into a coping mechanism for stress and unresolved childhood trauma. 

When John started IFS therapy, he was skeptical but desperate for change.

Through IFS, John identified several key parts: a Manager part that pushed him to work excessively, a Firefighter part that used alcohol to numb stress and pain, and several Exile parts carrying feelings of inadequacy and abandonment from his childhood.

During therapy, John learned to dialogue with these parts, especially his Firefighter. 

He realized this part was trying to protect him from the pain carried by his Exiles. 

By acknowledging and addressing the needs of his Exiles, John found that his urge to drink diminished significantly. 

Over months of therapy, John’s consumption of alcohol decreased, and he reported feeling more in control of his life. 

He also began to mend relationships damaged by his addiction, a testament to the holistic healing fostered by IFS.

Case Study 2: Recovery from Drug Abuse

Sarah, a 32-year-old woman, turned to drugs during her college years to cope with intense anxiety and depression. 

Her drug use escalated quickly, leading to several health and legal issues. 

When she entered IFS therapy, Sarah felt hopeless and trapped by her addiction.

In her therapy sessions, Sarah identified a primary Firefighter part that used drugs to escape feelings of worthlessness and a Manager part that constantly criticized her, fueling her low self-esteem. 

She also discovered several Exiles filled with pain from experiences of bullying and parental neglect.

With the guidance of her therapist, Sarah began to approach these parts with compassion and understanding. 

She learned to comfort her Exiles, reducing the need for her Firefighter to engage in drug use. 

Gradually, Sarah’s dependency on drugs lessened, and she developed healthier coping mechanisms. 

She reported improved mental health and a newfound sense of self-worth, demonstrating the transformative power of IFS in addressing the root causes of addiction.

Case Study 3: Healing from Gambling Addiction

Mark, a 50-year-old businessman, faced a crippling gambling addiction that threatened his career and family life. 

He sought help through IFS therapy after recognizing the unsustainable path he was on.

In therapy, Mark identified a Firefighter part that engaged in gambling as a way to escape feelings of inadequacy and a fear of failure, emotions primarily held by his Exiles. 

He also recognized a Manager part that was overly concerned with maintaining a façade of success and control.

Through IFS, Mark learned to negotiate with his Firefighter, understanding its protective role but also its destructive impact. 

He began to address the fears and pains of his Exiles, leading to a significant reduction in his urge to gamble. 

Mark’s recovery journey was marked by an improved sense of self-awareness and a rekindled connection with his family, highlighting the comprehensive healing facilitated by IFS therapy.

Outcomes and Changes Experienced

These case studies illustrate common outcomes and changes experienced by individuals who undergo IFS therapy for addiction:

Reduced Dependency on Substances or Behaviors: As the underlying emotional issues are addressed, the need for addictive behaviors as coping mechanisms decreases.

Improved Self-Awareness: Individuals gain a deeper understanding of their internal parts and how these parts contribute to their addiction.

Emotional Healing: Addressing and healing the Exiles leads to significant emotional healing, reducing the triggers for addictive behaviors.

Enhanced Relationships: As individuals heal internally, they often experience improved relationships with family and friends.

Increased Self-Compassion: IFS fosters an attitude of compassion and understanding towards oneself, aiding in recovery and personal growth.

These stories of transformation through IFS therapy underscore the model’s effectiveness in treating addiction. 

By focusing on the internal system of parts and promoting self-leadership and healing, IFS offers a path to sustainable recovery and a healthier, more integrated life.

One of our lead therapists here at The Encino Detox; implements the IFS model with all our patients.

Integrating IFS into Your Recovery Journey

Integrating IFS into the journey of recovery from addiction or emotional distress can be a transformative process. 

This approach, which emphasizes understanding and harmonizing the various parts within oneself, offers a path to self-healing and personal growth. 

Incorporating IFS principles into daily life involves a combination of self-reflection, seeking professional guidance, and practicing self-help techniques.

Tips on How to Start Integrating IFS Principles in Daily Life

Self-Reflection and Awareness: Begin by cultivating an awareness of your internal dialogue. Notice when different ‘parts’ of yourself emerge in response to various situations. 

This could be a critical voice, a protective instinct, or an impulsive reaction. Recognize these as parts of your internal system.

Journaling: Keep a journal to document your thoughts and feelings. When you notice a part becoming active (like a critical voice or an anxious feeling), write down what it says or how it feels. 

This practice helps in identifying and understanding your parts.

Mindfulness Practices: Engage in mindfulness exercises, such as meditation or deep breathing. 

These practices help in grounding yourself in the present moment and accessing your core Self, which is characterized by qualities like calmness, curiosity, and compassion.

Dialoguing with Parts: Once you identify different parts, try to have an internal dialogue with them. 

Approach them with curiosity and an open mind. Ask what they need and why they are acting in a certain way. This can help in understanding their protective roles.

Self-Compassion: Cultivate self-compassion. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer a good friend. 

Remember that all your parts have positive intentions, even if their actions are not always helpful.

Finding a Qualified IFS Therapist or Resources

Research Qualified Therapists: Look for therapists specifically trained in IFS such as we have at The Encino Detox Center. Websites like the IFS Institute offer directories of certified IFS therapists. 

Ensure that the therapist you choose is licensed and has experience in dealing with your specific issues.

Seek Recommendations: Ask for recommendations from healthcare professionals or support groups. Personal referrals can often lead to finding a therapist who is a good fit for your needs.

Online Resources and Communities: Use online resources such as forums, webinars, and discussion groups focused on IFS. 

These platforms can offer insights, experiences, and support from others who are using IFS in their recovery journeys.

Books and Literature: Read books and articles about IFS. Works by Dr. Richard Schwartz, the founder of IFS, can provide a deeper understanding of the model and its applications.

Self-Help Practices Based on IFS Principles

Regular Check-ins with Yourself: Make it a routine to check in with yourself and your parts. This can be done through quiet reflection or meditation. 

Regular check-ins help in maintaining a balanced relationship with your internal system.

Use Creative Expressions: Engaging in creative activities like drawing, painting, or music can help in expressing and understanding your parts. 

These activities offer a way to explore and convey your internal experiences tangibly.

Attend Workshops or Group Sessions: Participating in IFS workshops or group therapy sessions can provide practical experience in applying IFS principles. 

These sessions also offer the opportunity to learn from the experiences of others.

Develop a Support System: Build a support system with people who understand or are also practicing IFS. 

Having a network for sharing experiences and challenges can be immensely beneficial.

Practice Patience and Persistence: Integrating IFS into your life is a journey that requires patience and persistence. 

Change and healing take time, and it’s important to be gentle with yourself through this process.

Integrating IFS into your recovery journey involves a combination of self-awareness, professional guidance, and practical self-help strategies. 

By understanding and working with your internal parts, you can embark on a path of self-discovery and healing, leading to a more harmonious and fulfilling life.

If you need help with your addictions, reach out to us.

A therapist hearing out a young man with addiction issues; call us today if this is your current situation as well.

Key Takeaways

  • Internal Family Systems Therapy views the mind as composed of multiple sub-personalities or “parts”, each with its own unique perspective and emotional landscape. 
  • It conceives of every human being as a system of protective and wounded inner parts led by a core Self.
  • It offers a compassionate and empowering framework for understanding and treating a wide range of psychological issues, including addiction, trauma, and anxiety. 
  • Central to IFS is the concept of the ‘Self’, which is the core of an individual, characterized by qualities such as compassion, calmness, confidence, and clarity. 
  • Central to IFS is the concept of the ‘Self’, which is the core of an individual, characterized by qualities such as compassion, calmness, confidence, and clarity. 
  • The Self is distinct from the parts and is seen as the natural leader of the internal system.
  • In IFS, parts are categorized mainly into three roles—Managers, Firefighters, and Exiles.
  • In practice, IFS therapy involves the therapist guiding the client to identify and interact with their parts, facilitating a dialogue between the Self and these parts.
  • IFS therapy for addiction involves identifying and understanding the roles of the different parts involved in the addictive behavior. 
  • Several case studies illustrate common outcomes and changes experienced by individuals who undergo IFS therapy for addiction:
Mental health is more important than ever; here at The Encino Detox we strengthen the mental health of all our patients.


Here are several helpful resources to consult.

Websites and Videos

IFS Institute: The official website of the IFS Institute is a primary source for comprehensive information on IFS. It includes details about training, conferences, and workshops related to IFS, as well as a range of books and videos on the subject​​.

Ask Counseling LLC: This website lists various books, podcasts, and videos that can be useful for those interested in learning more about IFS. It includes resources like the “The One Inside” podcast and various IFS-related comics, offering diverse ways to engage with the IFS model​​.

YouTube: Several YouTube videos provide introductions to IFS, including presentations by Dr. Richard Schwartz, guided meditations, and discussions on specific aspects like dealing with the inner critic and trauma​​.

Books on IFS

Richard C. Schwartz. No Bad Parts: Healing Trauma and Restoring Wholeness with the Internal Family Systems Model. This book by the founder of IFS, Dr. Richard Schwartz, offers a comprehensive overview of the model, including its application in areas like trauma recovery and addiction therapy​​.

Richard C. Schwartz and Martha Sweezy. Internal Family Systems Therapy – 2nd Edition. This book provides an authoritative presentation of IFS therapy, including new chapters and updated research, making it invaluable for both new and experienced practitioners​​.

Jay Earley, Ph.D. Self-Therapy: A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating Wholeness and Healing Your Inner Child Using IFS, A New, Cutting-Edge Psychotherapy. This guide offers a step-by-step approach to using IFS for personal healing and growth​​.

 C. Burris. Creating Healing Circles: Using the Internal Family Systems Model in Facilitating Groups. This book discusses the application of IFS in group settings, focusing on creating a healing environment​​.

Administrator / Chief Clinical Officer
Certified cognitive-behavioral therapist, expert addiction and chemical dependency counselor, certified for more than twenty years of experience in adolescent, adult and family psychotherapy.
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