VIDEO: Richard Schwartz on Being a Compassionate Witness to Yourself

How Internal Family Systems Gives Traumatized Clients Their Power Back

Richard Schwartz

What if your clients could not only get to the bottom of what's troubling them, but also take the reins in their own recovery? According to Richard Schwartz, the originator of Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, this is a real possibility, as evidenced by his more than 30 years of experience successfully treating traumatized, often shut-down clients.

The key to IFS, Schwartz explains, is helping clients become "compassionate witnesses" to the pain of their wounded inner parts, which he refers to as "exiles," filling the empty role of a safe attachment figure that is often absent in the aftermath of trauma. "When this occurs," Schwartz says, "the therapist’s role shifts profoundly, and the client feels empowered and less dependent on the therapist."

In the following video clip from Schwartz's 2015 Networker Symposium keynote address, "The Inner Game of Psychotherapy: Bringing Forth the Core Self," he explains how getting to know their inner parts can help clients "unload" the wounds of trauma.

Richard Schwartz, PhD, is director of the Center for Self Leadership and the originator of the IFS model. He’s on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and the author of Internal Family Systems Therapy.

"Our exiles are playful, sensitive, and creative," Schwartz says. "But because they’re so sensitive, they’re often the ones that get hurt the most. They get stuck carrying our burdens, and they’re lost in the scenes of our past. We lock them up, not even knowing we’re abandoning our most valuable resources."

If you work with clients who are hypervigilant, shut-down, or exceedingly cautious when it comes to forming intimate relationships, Internal Family Systems could jump-start your sessions and lead to positive outcomes in no time at all. "Most of all," Schwartz says, "people need to learn how to access the essence in each of us that can’t be damaged and, once accessed, can allow inner qualities like curiosity, compassion, calm, and confidence that were there all along to finally emerge."

Did you enjoy this video? You might also enjoy Schwartz's article, Facing Our Dark Side, to find out how we can deal with inner parts that might bring us shame or embarrassment, or When Meditation Isn't Enough, where he explains how to help clients transform the disruptive feelings and thoughts that they’ve learned to simply observe during meditation.

Topic: Trauma

Tags: Dick Schwartz | IFS | internal family systems | Richard Schwartz | childhood traumas | compassion | Countertransference | Developmental Trauma Disorder | healing | Mindfulness | post traumatic stress | processing trauma | PTSD | ptsd and depression | Self | self-compassion | trauma treatment | Traumatic memory | traumatized clients

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