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Reconnecting with You: A Therapeutic Approach to Get Acquainted with All the Parts of Self

If you’ve ever used the phrase, “A part of me feels like….” or “A part of me wants to….,” then you have had firsthand experience with internal conflict caused by different versions (or parts) of yourself. As a therapist, I’ve found that many of my clients describe feeling as though they are fighting an internal tug of war that makes it difficult for them to feel secure in their decision making or to approach their concerns in an effective manner. A valuable approach to addressing this conflict of parts is a therapeutic approach called Internal Family Systems (IFS). 



Internal Family Systems is an integrative approach that exists to help one identify, understand, and connect with various subpersonalities(parts) that exist in relation to that individual’s core self. Think of the core self as the trunk of a tree and the subpersonalities as all the branches coming off the trunk. The belief of IFS is that every one of us has a various number of parts existing within our self-system that offer a unique perspective as well as their own opinions of our lives and experiences. 




When participating in IFS, a client can expect their experience to be divided into three phases: Increasing Awareness, Assessing Ability for Connection, and Facilitating Connection. In the first phase, Increasing Awareness, the client will learn how to explore their internal system in order to find parts that may exist within themselves. Once they have found that part, the therapist will assist them in focusing on gathering more information about how that part presents or what that part may be trying to communicate, and then they will flesh out the details of that part. In stage two, Assessing Ability for Connection, the client will identify how they feel towards that part and whether or not they feel ready to establish a compassionate, kind connection with that part. Lastly, in the final stage, Facilitating Connection, the client will work towards befriending that part as well as identifying fears that part may have. It is important to note that this is not a linear process and that it is completely normal to shift between the phases depending on what parts are interacting with one another. 


Skyler Gutierrez, LPC

As a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) at RVA Counseling, I tend to use an eclectic approach in addressing client concerns. I do not operate under the assumption that therapy is a one size fits all sort of experience and each client is an individual with different needs requiring a unique process. That’s what I love about IFS; the framework is flexible enough to apply to many individuals in various ways. It truly is a unique experience for each person, and it does not come along with a timeline or handbook. It is solely based on the person’s level of comfort and really meets them where they are when they begin the counseling process. I enjoy using a blended approach and often incorporate mindfulness techniques as well as concepts from CBT and DBT approaches in order for my clients to have a well-rounded experience. If IFS sounds like it may be useful or interesting to you, please reach out to RVA Counseling!


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