Sample IFS session

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The following sample IFS session is a transcription of an extract from the
session presented in the book on the IFS self-therapy (‘Self-therapy’).

The role of the therapist is played by Jay Earley, the author of the book
mentioned above. The client is Carl. Carl is a 40-year-old team manager at a
large company. He works under a lot of pressure and tends to take it out on his
subordinates. He takes up therapy to work on his anger management. As you’ll
see, one of Carl’s parts has some trust issues. This session presents an
approach in making contact with such a part so that it becomes open to
conversation.

Client: I want to work with the part that gets so pissed off with the people at
work.
Therapist: Okay. How do you sense that part in your body?
C: I grit my teeth and clench my fists.
T: Good. How do you feel about this part?
C: I’m curious about this angry part. Why does it get so cranky?
T: Okay. Ask this part what makes it so angry.
C: (pause) It doesn’t answer me.
T: Do you see any image of this part in your head?
C: Hmm, let’s see. Yes, it looks like a guy who’s been staring at me fiercely and
now is turning his back on me.
T: Maybe he doesn’t trust you? Check again if you are in touch with your Self.
In other words, check if curiosity is all that you feel towards this part, or
maybe there are any other feelings.
C: Well, now that you ask about it, I notice the tendency to judge and the
nervousness, as if I would like this part not to cause so many problems.
T: This could be the reason why this angry part doesn’t want to work with you.
Ask this judging, nervous part if it would willing to step aside so you can get to
know the angry part from an open space.
C: Okay. This part sees there’s a point in it and is willing to step aside.
T: Good. Now check how you’re feeling towards this guy – this angry part.
C: I’m more open to dialogue with him now.
T: Check if he is willing to talk to you.
C: How to do it exactly?
T: Ask him about what makes him so angry.
C: He still has his back turned on me, and I can feel his resentment towards
me. And he is not answering me.
T: Okay. Ask if he can trust you.
C: Well, now he answered: “Of course not!”
T: Good. Ask him what makes it hard for him to trust you.
C: (pause) Again, I can’t get any answer. I think he still has his back turned on
me, although I’m not entirely sure about it now.
T: Let this part know that you want to get to know it when it’s ready. And just
stay with it for a couple of minutes.
C: I’m not sure I know what you mean by that.
T: Focus your attention on it, that is on the image in your head or on the
sensation in your body. Try to do it from an open space, where you are
focusing your attention on this part, without rushing it to open up to you.
C: It’s not easy. Am I supposed just sit here? For how long?
T: It sounds a bit like there’s also an impatient part of you here somewhere.
Check if there’s a part of you that is impatient about the fact that you just need
to stay with that angry part of you.
C: Yes, there is such a part in me. It wants to move forward with my therapy.
T: This is perfectly understandable because you want to get somewhere with
this session, but it won’t work with the angry part. Ask the impatient part if it
would be willing to relax and let you be in silence with the angry part.
C: Well, it is willing to try … Okay. So here I am with the angry part.
T: Good. Let it know that you would like to get to know it, but only if it is ready
for it.
C: Okay. I did. (Pause) Well, I see this image more clearly now, but this part –
this guy – he still has his back to me.
T: Let him know that you appreciate the fact that the image has become more
clear to you.
C: Okay (pause) He is slowly turning to me and starting to look at me. It seems
that he’s getting interested in who I am.
T: Good. Let’s see if he is willing to tell you why he doesn’t trust you.
C: He says he doesn’t believe that what I say is what I really think.
T: Hmmm. Ask him to elaborate on that.
C: He says that I give the impression I can be trusted but, sooner or later, I will
turn my back on him.
T: Say thanks for that he told you that (pause). You can ask him if it happened
in the past that people who seemed trustworthy turned their backs on him.
C: Yes, many times.
T: No wonder he cannot trust you.
C: He says, “That’s right, and you weren’t there for me when I needed you
most. Why should I believe you will be there for me this time?”
T: I can understand why this part feels like that. Can you understand it, too?
C: Yes, I think I can.
T: What do you want to tell him?
C: “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you when you needed me. I wasn’t aware of
what was going on back then, I was just a kid. I will be there for you now
“(pause) He doesn’t believe me.
T: This is perfectly understandable. But don’t worry, we don’t need him to
start to trust you right away. Let him know there’s no need to hurry, no
pressure, and thank him for opening up to dialogue and for telling you how he
feels.
C: Ok, I did. He appreciates it. It looks like he’s easing up on me a little bit. He is
more laid back, and his face is not so grumpy.

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The IFS Polska Project has been started by Michael Pasterski, social skills coach who runs a popular blog, of over 1 million readers, on psychology, education and personal development MichalPasterski.pl.

Michael has accomplished the first level of education of the Internal Family Systems Model and as a practitioner of IFS Model runs individual and couples therapy with IFS.

The aim of the IFS Polska Project is to introduce and popularize the IFS Model in Poland and make it a well-recognisable method of self-therapy and psychotherapy.