The Internal Family Systems model, or IFS for short, recognizes that all people have a Self and parts. Richard Schwartz developed the IFS approach and it is a therapy that is non-pathologic, respectful and can be deeply healing. But IFS is more than just a therapeutic modality, it is a human view that helps us understand ourselves and our children at a much deeper level, which in itself fosters healing, connection, compassion and love.

The underlying concept of this theory is that we all have several parts living within us that fulfill both healthy and unhealthy roles. Life events or trauma, however, can force us out of those healthy roles into extreme roles.

The good news is that these internal roles are not static and can change with time and work. The goal of IFS therapy is to find your Self and bring all of these parts together.

Self is like the sun and parts are like the clouds! Even if a cloud is in front of the sun, the sun is still there waiting to be revealed.

I believe all people have access to self-qualities, such as self-compassion, non-judgmental curiosity, and calmness. Many of my neurodiverse clients live in a constant state of anxiety and tension. It’s hard for them to imagine tapping into Self qualities, such as calm. But they can and they do. The self can help resolve inner turmoil and bring balance to our inner system. This allows a person to feel more comfortable and confident, less torn about decisions, less anxious and depressed, and more hopeful.

When children can recognize that “a part of them is angry” or a “part of them is worried” they can learn how to help that part settle and feel safe. As parents and children begin to embrace these concepts and this language children learn an invaluable life skill that allows them to slow down and notice what they are feeling so that they can attend to themselves instead of ignoring their feelings or lashing out at others.

The IFS human view is so helpful and even healing to know for parents it fits beautifully with what we know today about (mental) health, healing, child development, attachment and the nervous system. Even simply understanding ourselves and our children through the IFS lens, can change a lot inside of ourselves and in relationship to our children.

Many of the neurodivergent families that I work with find that the IFS model helps them in two ways. Firstly, it brings them greater inner peace and confidence in parenting. Secondly, it gives them a greater appreciation for their child’s inner struggles and how this impacts their behavior. After learning IFS principles, parents usually notice that when their child does something that would have triggered them in the past, they now are able to access their Self qualities and remain patient, calm, and compassionate with their child. This usually reduces power struggles and improves the parent-child relationship.