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Internal family systems
(parts work)

About parts work

"A part of me feels [fill in the blank],

but another part of me feels [fill in another blank]."

If you've ever said or felt this before, you're already more familiar with parts work than you may have realized.

Internal Family Systems (IFS), or parts work, views a person as having: 1) a Self, and 2) multiple parts or sub-personalities (or internal family members).


At its core, Parts Work recognizes that each of us is comprised of a multitude of internal "parts" or aspects of our personality. These parts often emerge in response to life experiences, beliefs, and emotions, serving various protective or coping functions. However, when these parts become fragmented or in conflict with each other, it can lead to inner turmoil and emotional distress.


IFS provides a structured framework for exploring and integrating these internal parts. Central to IFS is the concept of the "Self," a core, compassionate, and wise aspect of our being that can lead the healing process. Through guided introspection and dialogue, individuals can learn to access their Self and cultivate self-leadership in relating to their internal parts.


(We know we are in "Self" when we feel one or more of the following 8 C's:

- curiosity

- calm

- confidence

- compassion

- creativity

- clarity

- courage

- connectedness.

Anything outside of these 8 C's is a part.)

In IFS, parts are categorized into three main types:

  1. Exiles: These are the wounded or vulnerable parts of ourselves that carry unresolved pain or trauma from the past. Exiles often hold intense emotions such as fear, shame, or sadness and may be hidden away to avoid further distress.

  2. Managers: Managers are the protective parts that strive to keep us safe by controlling our thoughts, behaviors, and interactions with the outside world. While their intentions are benevolent, managers can sometimes employ rigid or harsh strategies that contribute to inner conflict.

  3. Firefighters: Firefighters are reactive parts that emerge in response to overwhelming emotions or triggers. Their primary goal is to distract or numb us from distressing experiences, often through impulsive behaviors or substance use.

Through the process of Parts Work, individuals learn to cultivate curiosity, compassion, and empathy towards their internal landscape. By developing a deeper understanding of their parts and the roles they play, individuals can begin to heal past wounds, resolve inner conflicts, and integrate fragmented aspects of themselves.

Key Practices of Parts Work:

  1. Self-Compassion: Cultivate a compassionate stance towards yourself and your parts, acknowledging that each has its own story and purpose.

  2. Mindfulness: Practice mindful awareness to observe and explore your thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations without judgment.

  3. Dialogue: Engage in internal dialogue with your parts, listening to their concerns, needs, and fears with curiosity and empathy.

  4. Integration: Foster integration by acknowledging the valuable roles of each part and working towards harmonizing their intentions and actions.

Parts Work within the framework of Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy offers a powerful pathway to self-integration and healing. By embracing the complexity of our inner worlds and cultivating a compassionate relationship with our parts, we can embark on a journey of self-discovery, transformation, and inner peace. 

If you're interested in exploring Parts Work further feel free to reach out to schedule a session.

Wholeness is not achieved by cutting off a portion of one's being, but by integration of the contraries.

- Carl Jung

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