Internal Family Systems (IFS)

What is IFS?

IFS, sometimes referred to as ‘parts therapy’ is an evidence-based model that draws in the idea that we have a several parts to us. It’s a bit like the different emotions in the mind of the girl in the film Inside Out. To many, this makes initiative sense, for example, we might have a part of us that thinks we should go for a run, and another part that thinks we should stay inside and watch TV. It is not uncommon for our parts to be in conflict leave us feel stuck, discordant and like we cannot win whatever we do.


As well as having different parts, we are all born with, and maintain throughout our lives, a healthy and wise Self. When we are ‘Self-led’, we can feel and respond to internal and external situations in ways from a place of calmness, curiosity, compassion, connectedness, clarity, courage, and / or confidence. These are known in IFS as the 7 C’s and IFS holds that no matter what we encounter, or what traumas we experience, the Self remains intact and available to all of us.

However, we inevitably experience traumas as we grow up (these can be capital T trauma’s such as near-death experiences, or sexual assault, or lower-case t traumas’, such as bullying, criticism, rejection, neglect). The pain, shame and vulnerability associated with these experiences becomes too much for the Self to handle, so we exile them.


Exiles are our vulnerable, usually younger parts that hold our trauma memories and the feelings (e.g. pain, fear, and shame) and beliefs (e.g. “I’m unloveable”, “I’m not good enough”, “it’s hopeless”) attached to them. They are shut away to keep them safe, to stop them overwhelming from us and to allow us to manage our complicated lives.


Our manager parts are PRO ACTIVE, future orientated and are concerned with how we are viewed by others. They have good intentions; to keep us going, to keep us safe, to help us be accepted by others. However, when they are extreme, they can be more like a bully; abusive, shaming, critical, judgemental, rigid, harsh, perfectionist, punitive, loud, angry, with an inflated responsibility. When they are more balance, they are more like mentors; they motivate, manage, organise, and solve problems.


Our firefighter parts are REACTIVE. They are called firefighters because their aim is to put out emotional fires, and they don’t care too much about the consequences. They also have good intentions, to stop us from feeling difficult feelings, however, the ways and means they do this can be unhelpful. When at the extreme end of the spectrum, they can be troublemakers, they can be rebellious, defiant, oppositional, want instant gratification, have a ‘screw it’ attitude, be angry and defensive. Behaviours might include heavy drinking, substance use, self-harm, binge eating, mindlessly scrolling through social media and procrastination. When in balance, they are more like advocates, they help us to be assertive, and encourage healthy self-care.

IFS aims:

IFS therapy aims to help us identify our parts, understand and appreciate their intentions, and only then, see if they will consider alternatives for achieving the same aim. For example. If a manager part is very perfectionistic, we might come to learn that its intention is to ensure you do well, so you don’t feel like the failure that you did at school (exiled part). We might help that manager to see that demanding high standards and berating you actually makes you feel like more of a failure, and an alternative might be more supportive encouraging approach, this is more likely to help you stop feeling like a failure all the time.


Here at Counselling Psychology Online, we get asked a lot of questions about IFS. To clear some of these up, we thought that we would answer some of these below. For any other queries or to enquire about beginning your Internal Family Systems Therapy, please do not hesitate to contact us by email

What is IFS an abbreviation of?

IFS stands for Internal Family Systems Therapy. It is an approach that views the mind as composed of different “parts” with unique roles and aims to help individuals navigate their inner conflicts and restore harmony by fostering understanding, communication, and integration among these parts.

How many sessions of IFS therapy will I need?

Conditions and disorders are unique and so there is no set number of sessions of IFS that we would recommend. At Counselling Psychology Online, we will arrange an initial assessment session where we will consider if IFS may be a helpful approach for you. From here, we can give you an idea about how many sessions may be needed.

How long are online IFS counselling sessions with you?

We tend to offer 50 minute sessions for our Internal Family Systems Therapy – however this can vary from case to case.

How do I start my IFS Therapy?

The first thing to do is to contact us by emailing

Do I need anything for my online therapy?

All you require is a device which has a video app (such as zoom or skype) and connects you to the internet. Other than that, we would recommend all of your counselling sessions take place in a quiet, safe space.

Internal Family Systems Therapy with Counselling Psychology Online


We have a wealth of experience tailoring IFS therapy online with adults, children, adolescents, couples and families. For answers to some of our most commonly asked questions, please visit our FAQ page.

To begin your therapy or for any further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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