Hello, I am Abi, and I am a Psychotherapeutic counsellor specialising in Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy.
What does this mean?
As well as offering traditional talking therapy, I also offer pure Internal Family Systems therapy, or, an integration of approaches, tailored to your situation. I use the IFS approach for trauma, addictive processes, anxiety and relationship struggles.
IFS, is a compassionate, research-based model created by Richard Schwartz in the 1990s. A form of psychotherapy, it involves helping people heal by listening inside themselves, to the different parts of their system, and in the process, unburdening themselves of extreme beliefs, emotions, and urges that might be impacting their lives. It proposes we are pluralistic, with an internal system of countless parts, and a core Self, which is not a part, which is compassionate, curious and balanced.
What do I mean by parts?
If you think about your own family or a group of people you belong to, you might notice that within these groups, certain people hold certain roles, like, the caretaker, the leader, the risk taker, the critic, amongst others. Some members are revered, some are dismissed. You might also be aware of how certain topics create reactions, cycles and repetitive arguments. Members of each group will manage these cycles in different ways, perhaps by deflecting, minimising, shouting, shaming, or people pleasing. In most families, some voices are louder than others and some are simply not welcome.
In the same way that a family or group of people interact, we also have an internal family of sub personalities or ‘parts’. Some parts of our system are more welcome than others, some are celebrated, some rejected. Often, parts are opposed. I am sure we are all familiar with the concept of holding opposing thoughts and desires. For example, a part of me wants to go to bed, but another part of me wants to finish this box set, or, a part of me feels really angry with my partner for not putting out the bins, but another part of me knows that they were running late for work this morning.
Just as in families, people get forced into extreme roles that they don’t want and are not suited to, our parts can get forced into extreme roles, through traumatic experiences or attachment injuries. When we experience wounding, parts of our system become vulnerable, and other parts step in to protect that vulnerability, working hard to make sure we don’t have to feel that pain again. Parts carry burdens, negative beliefs, emotions, sensations and other energies that were absorbed and accumulated from the past, and they can often override and distort our thinking.
What is the Self?
The Self is not part. It is a rich inner resource that we are all born with and have access to. I believe that Self may develop overtime as we develop chronologically and through life experience, however, I also believe that at everyone’s core the Self exists with qualities such as courage, compassion, calm, curiosity and creativity.
What will our sessions look like?
To start with, we will spend time identifying the parts in your system. We sometimes call this mapping. Over time, will get to meet and know all the wonderful parts in your system and work towards increasing their trust in your Self. We will work towards improving how your parts interact with other parts and how they react to external triggers. We can begin to heal any pain or vulnerability that might be causing those internal reactions, and once we do that, we will have the ability to choose how we want to respond rather than just reacting.
We will start the session with you sharing, whatever it is that you have decided you’d like to use our time for that week or perhaps you’ll share an incident that’s cropped up that week. While you are sharing, you might notice me taking notes. I will be listening out for parts and when you are ready, I will name these back to you.
We then will take a moment to go inside and notice which part would like our attention today and from there, we will spend time with that part listening to what it would like us to hear and what wisdom it has to share with us. Other parts might join that would like to be heard, and if there is enough openness and space, the parts that are working hard to protect vulnerable ones in your system may move back and let us be with those younger ones.
There is no agenda in IFS therapy. I believe and trust in your system completely, and I will always be taking the lead from your parts, that have been working so hard all your life to keep you safe, and the pace will be led by you. Together, we will not go anywhere that your system has not given permission for us to go.
What is the main goal of IFS therapy?
The goal of ISF therapy is for us to embody our Self, and heal our injured parts, so that we can live with confidence, guided by curiosity and compassion. Once we start listening to the parts of our system, instead of trying to dismiss them or ignore them, we will notice spontaneous change and increased peace and clarity.
How would it feel for your system right now to hear that hope and healing is possible?
Check inside right now how your system responded to that idea.
IFS therapy offers hope to everyone. We are all born with a core Self that holds all the qualities and resources we need. It is a beautiful, natural leader, and when trusted by our parts can lead a harmonious internal system.
I like the analogy of our system being a bus with all the parts as passengers; some sit quietly near the front, some are raucous on the back seats! Some sit upstairs, looking out of the window, and some get up and down approaching the driver with helpful information.
In order for there to be harmony in our internal system, which in turn creates harmony in our external relationships, we want Self to drive our bus.
IFS therapy is usually long-term as it can take time to meet and get to know all of your parts. They all have a lot of wisdom to share with us. It can take time for your parts to trust you and to trust me as your guide. In between sessions, and once our time together has concluded, you can continue to work towards living in harmony through internal Self leadership, taking time each morning to go inside, welcome which ever parts are present and listen to what they need you to know that day.
The main goal of IFS therapy is for you, my client, to discover and embody all the wonderful resources that your system has for you, and for you to heal your inner parts so you can live with confidence, guided by curiosity. I hold it as a privilege to witness this season of healing in each of my client’s lives and look forward to meeting you and all of your parts!
If you would like to seek mental health services in Bristol, our team can help. At Bristol Counselling and Psychotherapy, we have a team of experienced counsellors who are ready to offer support for a wide range of mental health issues, welcoming individuals into safe and non-judgemental spaces within which to begin their journey to recovery. For more information or to book an initial consultation, please email email@example.com. Alternatively, to speak to us directly, please contact 07751 271 709.