Working with Inner Conflict and Polarised Parts in IFS
The Professional Development People
Working with Inner Critics and Polarised Parts in Internal Family Systems (IFS)
Presenter: Leona Dawson
We have all felt trapped by conflicting desires and we often meet with clients who have a very strong motivation to move in one direction, but they are continually drawn away. This state is often experienced as “stuck”. In IFS we see it as a polarization between two parts that each believe the other is wrong.
“The length and difficulty of treatment in IFS is governed not by symptom severity but by the degree of polarization, distrust in Self-leadership and the client’s level of burdening.” Richard Schwartz, Internal Family Systems, 2nd Ed, 2020, p60.
Symptoms are the coping strategies of Parts trying to protect clients from emotional and psychological pain. When Parts are polarized, it means they are opposed to each other. We see this in our therapy rooms when clients are indecisive, ambivalent or hold two seemingly opposing beliefs. Polarizations tend to be an overcorrection. Polarizations are not uncommon; we all experience them to some degree or other. Exercise or rest. Eat or diet. Leave or stay.
Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, one of the fastest-growing approaches to psychotherapy, has a specific protocol for working with polarizations that differentiates and empowers the parts that can leave us feeling stuck. IFS enhances mindful awareness and self-compassion through getting to know Parts in a methodical yet intimate way providing a framework for restoring a sense of worthiness and self-trust.
The Benefits of IFS for therapists:
- IFS offers a consistent way to respectfully enter and respond to a clients’ inner ecology without a need to interpret, pathologize or diagnose.
- IFS supports symptom reduction leading to improved functioning for clients through releasing, rather than overriding, maladaptive beliefs and behaviours.
- IFS supports client self-healing, re-establishing the Self to Part relationship developing the skills of self-awareness and self-compassion.
IFS advances treatment by:
- Working with parts rather than trying override them.
- Supporting the development of mindful self-awareness and self-compassion.
- Encouraging clients to attend to their Parts between sessions improving affect regulation and self-efficacy.
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