Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS) for Addiction Treatment

This article explains the essentials to attaining mental harmony through Internal Family Systems therapy.

What is Internal Family Systems Therapy?

Internal Family Systems therapy (IFS) is based on the notion that we are a collection of several entities or sub-personalities as human beings. It adopts an approach that addresses these multiple personalities within each individual’s psychological build-up.

IFS therapy sessions are forms of psychotherapy focusing on people’s internal parts of self.

One of the highlights of IFS therapy is that Internal Family Systems therapists take the human mind as a natural make-up of various families or sub-personalities within a person’s mental system. These alternate personalities are considered to partake in multiple roles, performing the function of a system’s inner child or, in some cases, an inner critic. They are also considered to consist of painful past feelings like shame and anger.

Internal Family Systems Therapy


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When Is It Utilized?

IFS works as an evidence-based practice to treat various mental health issues like PTSD, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance abuse. IFS therapy techniques are used for the accessibility of a person’s self to help them heal their painful feelings or wounded parts and redirect their mind to a state of calm.3

What Internal Family Systems Therapy Can Help With

In different areas, Internal Family System therapy techniques have been effective. This psychotherapy method has been used to treat different conditions, which include:


For patients with certain phobias, Internal Family Systems therapists can help them work through their fears. In particular, IFS has been effective in improving mental and general emotional well-being. IFS meditation has continually been rated as a form of treatment for symptoms that exhibit themselves through phobia.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder is a condition that causes anxiety resulting from different issues and situations instead of a single event. A typical patient with a generalized anxiety disorder might be very anxious for most of the day and might even have difficulties recollecting when they were last calm.

With meditation, a patient’s internal system is explored for the time when anxiety is most felt, and through this, a patient can be walked through how to overcome their anxiety.


Many patients who report having panic might find it beneficial to look into IFS. Usually, IFS therapy is used to manage the situations and explore the sub-personalities of the patient.

IFS interventions identify any wounded parts or experiences of the patient that might lead to panic. Once this is identified, the patient can be helped in order to resolve the panic and all other issues that might trigger panic later.


Depression, in today’s world, is very common. IFS therapy can help contribute to the treatment of the patient’s depression, particularly through the rediscovery of the client’s original personality. It can also help them find their passions again through looking internally at all parts of the self.

General Health Problems

IFS can also treat a myriad of other health problems, especially psychological wounds and mental health conditions. With IFS therapy, the patient will be able to understand and identify the various parts of themselves that require the most attention and treatment in order to aid in recovery.

How Internal Family Systems Therapy Works

There are three main ways that Internal Family Systems techniques work.

Exploring Exiled Parts

Exiled parts is one of the ways Internal Family Systems therapy works. Exiles are the sections with the most traumatic memories and emotions. They are frequently among the system’s newest components.

These might include memories of being abused, neglected, humiliated, or shamed. When a part of a person has been through so much pain, such pain is essentially locked away to save the system from being overwhelmed; they become an exile. Exiled components could take the form of younger versions of the client.


Managers are the system’s proactive protectors. Their objectives include maintaining system stability and being prepared to help when situations arise. In addition, managers search for ways to keep exiled sections hidden from view by controlling the system.

Most managers are concerned that the exiled components would resurface and then overrun the system with the strength of their memories and sentiments. As a result, they frequently replicate the self so well that they appear to be the self themselves. Managers can come in the form of overbearing parents or critical parents.


Firefighters are the system’s reactive guardians. Firefighters are called in whenever an exiled component gets past the managers’ defenses. Their purpose is to prevent the system from experiencing the exile’s agony. Seeking out exhilarating activities is an example of less extreme behavior.

On the other hand, management frequently polarizes firefighters, which dislike the methods by which they act out. This polarity can lead to extremes in the strategies used by firefighters, such as suicide attempts, self-harm, binge eating, or drug usage.

Internal Family Systems Therapy Session

What Happens in an Internal Family Systems Therapy Session?

During a typical therapy session, or group therapy, the aim is to help the patient in their rediscovery of self. Hence, there are a lot of IFS psychology activities that are done to identify a patient’s true self and help them overcome their fears. These exercises include:

  • Breathing exercises: One of the best ways to calm a patient and help them overcome anxiety and panic is to tell them to draw a deep breath and exhale slowly. In a typical IFS therapy session, there will be many breathing exercises to settle the mind and redirect it to self-discovery and internal balance.
  • Visualization: Visualization is also commonly done in IFS therapy. Patients are required to visualize their true self in the present, in the future, and contemplate how it is being weighed down by anxiety or other emotional and mental health issues.

Internal Family Systems self-therapy allows the patient to understand the gravity of the issues they may be experiencing and get help with rediscovery. Other activities of IFS therapy sessions could include journaling, mindfulness, and asking parts of the self to interact with other internal areas.

Benefits of IFS Therapy

IFS evidence-based therapy sessions have a lot of benefits for patients who might be experiencing panic, anxiety, depression, or any other conditions requiring IFS intervention. There are many benefits to IFS therapy outside of getting help for substance use disorder.

Power Through Self-Leadership

One of the core purposes of the Internal Family Systems psychology is to help individuals achieve internal balance. And this is achieved through the exploration of their inner self. Clients who have partaken in IFS exercises often report having the power to take charge of themselves and achieve internal balance.

IFS Promotes Self-Compassion

IFS helps in self discovery, especially the true discovery of one’s personality. It is this discovery that often helps trigger self-compassion. When a patient undergoes IFS sessions, they are more likely to experience increased self-compassion.

Providing a Better Understanding of the Self

IFS helps us to understand ourselves and the power within. It helps to identify and understand the factors responsible for panic, depression, and anxiety. More importantly, IFS psychology helps us know how to deal with those factors and become our true self. IFS can also help us prepare for future emotional difficulty and figure out how to overcome it in a healthy way.

Internal Family Systems Therapy at Concise Recovery

Internal Family Systems therapy is something that can be beneficial if you or a loved one suffer from panic attacks, trauma, PTSD, depression, general anxiety disorder, or other psychological complications. Internal Family Systems therapy can also be valuable in helping treat addiction and substance use disorder. While it might be a newer way of approaching these topics, Internal Family Systems therapy can be the turning point for some patients in order for them to get the help they need and create a more peaceful sense of self. This type of therapy helps to promote healthy and stable healing from multiple issues.

Concise Recovery’s IFS therapy offers some of the best psychotherapy to help heal and restore your state of mind in a safe and secure environment. Call us today to ask about what options we offer and how to schedule an IFS appointment for you or a loved one.