When it comes to working with traumatized clients, it helps for them to have a strong attachment figure, says Richard Schwartz, the originator of Internal Family Systems. And often, he adds, a good therapist fills that role by being present and attuned. But what if clients could become their own best ally in healing, and take fuller agency in their own recovery?
According to Schwartz, IFS allows exactly this. "There's an essence within people that already has the qualities of a good attachment figure and can become a good parent to wounded inner parts," he says. "Rather than just watch our thoughts and emotions parade by, we see these as emanating from suffering beings, and we can use compassion to get to know them."
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.
"The primary obstacle to treating ourselves more kindly is the fact that most of us are addicted to self-criticism," Schwartz says. "Who among us hasn’t had the experience of learning to be judgmental of ourselves as a teenager, when we’re so worried about how we’re going to appear to others?" IFS, he adds, allows us to better understand our inner critics as vigilant protectors, and embrace the full range of all our parts and achieve an inner harmony.
"In my own work, I greet my inner parts fondly before sessions, especially when I suspect they’ll be triggered, and ask that they leave the office until the session is over," Schwartz says. "Then I check with myself frequently during the session to ensure I’m present and my heart is open."
Did you enjoy this video? Check out Schwartz's new Master Class, Internal Family Systems: Step by Step to see IFS in action and determine how it will enhance your own work. You’ll observe a dramatic and moving clinical session between IFS-originator Richard Schwartz and Jody, a woman who’s been haunted by early childhood trauma her whole life. Watch as Dr. Schwartz guides Jody step-by-step through a journey that enables her to fully embrace her capacity for personal transformation.
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.
Tags: attachment | Attachment Theory | childhood trauma | complex trauma | Dick Schwartz | early childhood trauma | IFS | inner parts | internal family systems | mindful | Mindfulness | post traumatic stress | Richard Schwartz | Self | trauma recovery