Internal Family Systems (IFS)

Internal Family Systems (IFS)

Daren offers individual IFS (Internal Family Systems) sessions for personal healing and integration.  This method is great for working with stress, anxiety, discomfort, inner conflict and developmental trauma.  Many people find it a helpful supplement to Nonviolent Communication (NVC).  NVC helps us to relate more consciously to ourselves and others and communicate more effectively.  Internal Family Systems (IFS) helps us with the elements within us that we are less conscious of, or even unconscious of!

“I love this type of self discovery and self work.  The understanding of my inner world helps me to identify and live with my daily patterns with more acceptance and ease. I find the sessions often very steadying.  Daren is very kind, open and professional. His gentle, non judgemental and well guided approach makes me feel safe, relaxed and able to explore the hidden depths within me.  He allows space for individual self discovery but steps in with precision when needed – what a gift! Thank you Daren.” – Katerina S.

In an IFS session we simply explore your sensations, thoughts, emotions or memories and where they are coming from to discover the hidden stories, fears, needs and experiences that are waiting to be healed.

A key premise of this method is that we are all naturally multiple; we all have varied and contradictory thoughts, feelings and impulses, and all of these, no matter how painful or damaging, are at their heart benign and have a positive intent – they are trying to help us.  When we approach these different parts of ourselves with curiosity and interest they will naturally soften, revealing their intention to soothe, distract or protect us in spite of their limited resources.  As we listen to the different parts of ourselves, their feelings and concerns, and compassionately witness what our systems have been through, over time more options, ease and creativity will open up.

Below you can read more about session lengths and costs.  You can also read a fuller explanation of Internal Family Systems (IFS), including its origins, and its perspective on our inner dynamics and the process of healing.

To arrange a session of Internal Family Systems (IFS)

Currently Daren is only offering these session online, using Zoom.  If you would like to arrange an initial session of IFS, please contact Daren initially via the following email address:  nvcresolutions[at]gmail.com.  You might like to try a session to see if it works for you.

I began work with Daren late in life. I had been much helped by two therapists earlier, but working with Daren with IFS has been exceptionally powerful. He is sensitive, attuned and able to articulate clear questions at the right moment. Above all he is able to convey deep compassion in a quiet, unobtrusive way. – Annie

Internal Family Systems (IFS) session length and costs

1 hour & 20 minutes works well for Internal Family Systems (IFS) sessions.  50 minute sessions are also possible, though with this length you may find that you are at a crucial point when the session needs to end.  You are welcome to try both session lengths to see what suits you best.

Regarding fees, Daren runs a sliding scale, based on your gross income, which is outlined in the following table.  If these costs would prevent you from having sessions with Daren, please contact him to discuss.

Annual gross income

Monthly gross income

Fee for 50 minute session

Fee for 1 hour & 20 min session

Fee for 1 hour & 50 min session

Less than £20,000

Less than £1,666

£60

£90

£120

£20,000 to £30,000

£1,666 to £2,500

£70

£105

£140

£30,000 to £45,000

£2,500 to £3,750

£80

£120

£160

More than £45,000

More than £3,750

£90

£135

£180

Origins of Internal Family Systems (IFS)

Internal Family Systems (IFS) has been developed by Richard Schwartz since the 1980s.  Richard Schwartz was a Family Systems Therapist who worked with families to help them explore their relationships with each other and function more effectively as a family unit.  Working individually with members of some families, he was surprised to discover that they had an ‘internal family’ which often reflected key aspects of their external family.  Once this ‘internal family system’ has become established it will continue throughout an individuals life, regardless of whether the external family is present or not.  This means that even if the external relationships in a family are healed, the individual family members will still carry on with beliefs and behaviours that are unhelpful, or even destructive, in their personal lives.

Richard Schwartz also found that some of the theories and approaches of Family Systems Therapy could be used effectively to work with the internal family systems of individuals.  Other aspects of the Internal Family Systems theory and method have developed over the more than 40 years that Richard Schwartz has been evolving this method.

Internal Psychological Structure according to IFS (Internal Family Systems)

Internal Family Systems (IFS) posits that our minds are made up of multiple parts, each part having its own perspective, interests, memories, and viewpoint.  Underlying these parts is our core or true Self. Like members of a family, some of a person’s inner parts can take on ‘extreme roles’ usually in an attempt to protect other vulnerable parts from external threat.

In the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model, there are three general types of parts:

  1. Exiles are vulnerable parts that carry emotional hurts, wounds and traumas, often originating in childhood, and they carry the burden of pain, fear and negative beliefs (eg “I am worthless”) from the time of the wounding.  Often young and childlike, they leave the person feeling exposed and vulnerable.  “Don’t forget me!” is their motto.
  2. Managers try to protect a person’s consciousness by preventing the Exiles’ pain from coming into awareness.  So managers take on a preemptive role.  They influence the way a person interacts with the external world, protecting the person from harm and preventing past painful or traumatic experiences from flooding the person’s conscious awareness, often in the belief that these experiences are too overwhelming to be brought into awareness.  Typical manager parts might include an internal critic that shuts a person down through self-criticism, a workaholic part that avoids the feeling of painful inner feelings through constantly focusing on work, or a people pleaser part that avoids feelings of hurt, fear or abandonment through attempting to keep others happy.  There are many different types of manager parts and patterns.  They are habitual and often make up key elements of an individual’s personality. “Never again!” is their motto.
  3. Firefighters are parts of the inner system that take on extreme roles when Exiles have bypassed manager parts and are about to break out and flood the person’s awareness.  For a person’s inner system this is an emergency and the firefighter works to quickly divert attention away from the Exile’s pain, fear or shame, which leads to impulsive and/or inappropriate actions that may seem out of character.  The firefighter doesn’t care about the cost to the individual or to others, which can lead to behaviours such as alcohol or drug use, self-harm, anger or violence. “When all else fails!” is their motto.

Self and Self-leadership in IFS

The other key element in the internal psychic structure is what Internal Family Systems (IFS) calls Self.  Self is not so much a part as the essential or core self of the individual.  It equates with what religions and other psychological systems might call The Higher Self, the Soul, the Core Self or Self-actualisation.  Key qualities of Self include calm, clarity, compassion and a caring attitude.  Self can often be obscured by protective managers and firefighters and one of the key goals of Internal Family Systems is to support managers and firefighters to ‘unblend’ from the Self so that it can adopt a natural leadership role within an individuals internal system.

Healing with Internal Family Systems (IFS) – there are no ‘bad’ parts!

Many therapies adopt a combative approach, attempting to argue against or suppress unhelpful or destructive behaviours that people are manifesting.  However, this often increases the internal conflicts and battles within an individual, instead of resolving them.

In contrast, IFS offers the radical perspective that every part has a positive intent.  Parts whose actions are counterproductive and/or cause dysfunction (i.e. managers and firefighters) are actually healthy parts that took on extreme roles’, often long ago in the past, in order to protect the vulnerable parts (exiles) within a person’s inner system.  There is no need to fight with, coerce, or eliminate these parts; instead with Internal Family Systems we show empathy and understanding of the protective manager and firefighter parts and enlist their cooperation in allowing us to access the exiles that they are protecting.

When the exiles are accessed, they can be heard from the person’s core Self, empathised with, and their burdensome feelings and beliefs can be released.  A healthy relationship can then be cultivated with these vulnerable, often child-like parts, from the person’s core Self.  In Internal Family Systems we call this healthy relationship with our internal parts ‘Self-leadership’.

Once the exiled parts are healed and their burdens released, the managers and firefighters are supported to relinquish their ‘extreme roles’ and revert to their ‘naturally healthy roles’, as the individual’s internal family system is brought back into balance and harmony.  Thus an inner critic might take on a watchful role within a person’s inner system, alerting the individual to threats and dangers, without resorting to shutting them down through criticism.  A workaholic part might still enjoy the many benefits of positive engagement in work or projects, but be able to let go of this engagement to allow rest, recuperation and engagement in relationships and other health giving pursuits.  A people pleaser part might still enjoy helping others but not at a cost to the individual.

About Daren De Witt and Internal Family Systems (IFS)

Daren has been working with different methods that adopt a ‘parts’ approach to the inner psyche for many years, particularly Voice Dialogue since 2008 and Identity-oriented Psychotrauma Therapy (IoPT) since 2016.  So when Daren started learning IFS in 2021 he found it easy to integrate it into his work with individuals.

Daren has completed a 16 week comprehensive course with Stepping Stones (IFS Canada) and is certificated and insured to offer IFS-informed services to clients.  Daren has also completed approximately 200 further hours of IFS training, including the IFS Online Circle and the Self-led Helper trainings, co-led by Richard Schwartz, the creator of Internal Family Systems.  Daren continues to augment his IFS knowledge and skill through continuing training and supervision.  He also has an active personal practice using IFS.

Currently Daren is only offering these session online, using Zoom.  If you would like to arrange an initial session of IFS, please contact Daren initially via the following email address:  nvcresolutions[at]gmail.com.  You might like to try a session to see if it works for you.