Internal Family Systems (IFS) Trauma Treatment Approach

Trauma can have a profound impact on an individual’s life, affecting their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors long after the traumatic event has ended. The Internal Family Systems (IFS) trauma treatment approach offers a unique way to approach trauma therapy by working with the different parts of the self. In this blog, we will explore the different components of IFS therapy, the six stages, and the benefits of this approach in trauma treatment. If you have experienced trauma, understanding the IFS approach can provide insight into a powerful tool for healing and growth.

What Is IFS?

What Is IFS?IFS stands for Internal Family Systems, which is a therapeutic approach developed by Richard Schwartz, Ph.D. This approach views the mind as a collection of different “parts,” or sub-personalities, each with its unique perspective, emotions, and behaviors. According to IFS, these parts can become fragmented or polarized, leading to internal conflicts, emotional distress, and problematic behavior.

The goal of IFS therapy is to help individuals identify and understand their different parts, and to develop a more compassionate and harmonious relationship with them. This involves working with a therapist to explore the various parts of oneself, understand their motivations and needs, and learn how to communicate with them respectfully and productively. Through this process, individuals can learn to integrate their different parts, reducing internal conflict and improving overall emotional well-being.

Is IFS Effective In Trauma Treatment?

Internal Family Systems (IFS) have shown promising results in the treatment of trauma. One of the key principles of IFS is that all parts of the self are valuable and have a purpose. This means that in IFS therapy, trauma is not seen as something that needs to be eliminated or overcome. But rather as an experience that can be integrated into one’s overall sense of self.

IFS therapy helps individuals to access and work with the different parts of the mind. Individuals can gain a greater understanding of how trauma has affected them and how they have coped with it. This can lead to greater self-awareness, self-compassion, and resilience. Research studies have shown that IFS therapy can be effective in treating a variety of trauma-related conditions. Such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), complex trauma, and dissociative disorders.

Overall, IFS therapy offers a unique approach to trauma treatment that focuses on developing a compassionate relationship with all parts of the self. By working with these parts in a safe and supportive therapeutic environment, individuals can learn to integrate their traumatic experiences into their overall sense of self, leading to greater healing and resilience.

Components Of IFS

Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy is based on the concept that every individual has a multiplicity of “parts” within them that make up their internal system. These parts include:


Managers are parts that are responsible for keeping the individual safe and in control. They may be perfectionistic, analytical, or rigid in their thinking. They may also be hyper-vigilant or controlling to prevent vulnerable parts from being hurt. Managers can be helpful in certain situations, but if they become too dominant, they can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, or burnout.


Exiles are parts that carry traumatic memories, pain, or vulnerability. These parts hid away in the psyche and may be guarded by other parts. Exiles trigger by present-day situations that remind them of the past and can cause intense emotions, such as fear, shame, or sadness. If we do not address or integrate exiles, they can lead to negative patterns of behavior or mental health issues.


Firefighters are parts that respond to emotional distress by using coping mechanisms such as substance abuse, self-harm, or other impulsive behaviors. These parts are often activated in response to the emotional pain of exiles. They may temporarily provide relief from emotional pain, but can ultimately create more problems if they are relied on too heavily.

The Self

The self is the core of the individual’s being and is the foundation of the IFS model. The self is characterized by qualities such as compassion, curiosity, and clarity. It is part of the individual that can observe and interact with the other parts in a non-judgmental and compassionate way. The goal of IFS therapy is to help the individual access their self and use it to heal and integrate their parts.

6 Stages Of IFS Trauma Treatment Approach

6 Stages Of IFS Trauma Treatment ApproachThe IFS trauma treatment approach involves six stages of therapy to heal different parts of themselves affected by trauma. Here are the six stages of IFS trauma treatment:

  • Find: The first stage of IFS therapy involves finding and identifying the different parts of the self affected by trauma. This stage involves exploring the different thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that arise in response to trauma triggers.
  • Focus: The second stage of IFS therapy involves focusing on one specific part of the self affected by trauma. This part is the “exile.” The therapist helps the individual explore the feelings, memories, and sensations associated with this part.
  • Flesh Out: The third stage of IFS therapy involves fleshing out the details of the exile. This may involve exploring the origin of the trauma, the emotions associated with it, and any beliefs or patterns of behavior that have developed as a result of the trauma.
  • Feel Towards- The fourth stage of IFS therapy involves feeling towards the exile with compassion and curiosity. This involves helping the individual develop a non-judgmental and compassionate relationship with this part of themselves.
  • Befriend: The fifth stage of IFS therapy involves befriending the exile. This means helping the individual integrate the exile into their internal system healthily and positively.
  • Fear: The final stage of IFS therapy involves addressing any fears or resistance that may arise during the therapy process. This may involve exploring any negative beliefs or patterns of behavior that are preventing the individual from fully integrating the exile into their internal system.

Benefits Of IFS Trauma Treatment Approach

Benefits Of IFS Trauma Treatment ApproachThere are several benefits of using the Internal Family Systems (IFS) approach in trauma treatment. Here are some of the key benefits:

  • Focuses on healing the root cause: IFS therapy recognizes that trauma is a root cause of emotions and experiences in different parts of the self. By working with these parts, IFS therapy helps individuals address the root cause of their trauma and promotes lasting healing.
  • Compassionate and non-judgmental approach: It is a compassionate and non-judgmental approach to working with different parts of the self. This approach helps individuals feel safe and supported as they explore and work through their trauma.
  • Empowers individuals: IFS trauma therapy empowers individuals by helping them develop a deeper understanding of their internal world, including the parts that make up their internal system. This increased awareness helps individuals take an active role in their healing process.
  • Promotes self-regulation: It teaches individuals how to identify and regulate their emotions and physiological responses to trauma triggers. This skill helps individuals feel more in control and better equipped to handle challenging situations.
  • Integrative approach: IFS therapy is an integrative approach that easily combines with other trauma treatment approaches. This means that individuals can customize treatment plans as per their unique needs and experiences.


The Internal Family Systems (IFS) trauma treatment approach is a unique and effective way to approach trauma therapy. By working with the different parts of the self, IFS therapy promotes healing, empowerment, and resilience. It is a structured, compassionate, and non-judgmental approach with six stages. Thus, can help individuals develop a deeper understanding of themselves and their trauma. If you have experienced trauma, seeking the help of a trained therapist in IFS therapy can be a step towards healing and growth.

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