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Digital Seminar

The Inner Game of Psychotherapy

Richard C. Schwartz, PhD
50 Minutes
Audio and Video
May 27, 2015
Product Code:
Media Type:
Digital Seminar


Family therapist Richard Schwartz has radically redefined our understanding of our “inner self” from a single, monolithic persona to a complex Internal Family System (IFS) of different parts, or subpersonalities-each with its own sometimes antagonistic memories, viewpoints, desires, and agendas. Within this framework, Schwartz has developed a clear, systematic methodology for helping clients heal themselves by getting to know, acknowledge, and “talk” to each part, and in the process connect with a deeper Self that embodies a central core of confidence, compassion, and wisdom. Schwartz will present a video demonstration of how he uses an IFS approach to help clients with complex trauma communicate with their core Self and integrate and embrace their conflicted and disowned inner parts.


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Richard C. Schwartz, PhD's Profile

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IFS Institute

Richard Schwartz, PhD began his career as a family therapist and an academic at the University of Illinois at Chicago. There he discovered that family therapy alone did not achieve full symptom relief, and in asking patients why, he learned that they were plagued by what they called "parts." These patients became his teachers as they described how their parts formed networks of inner relationship that resembled the families he had been working with. He also found that as they focused on and, thereby, separated from their parts, they would shift into a state characterized by qualities like curiosity, calm, confidence and compassion. He called that inner essence the Self and was amazed to find it even in severely diagnosed and traumatized patients. From these explorations, the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model was born in the early 1980s.

IFS is now evidence-based and has become a widely-used form of psychotherapy, particularly with trauma. It provides a non-pathologizing, optimistic, and empowering perspective and a practical and effective set of techniques for working with individuals, couples, families, and more recently, corporations and classrooms.

In 2013, Schwartz left the Chicago area and now lives in Brookline, MA where he is on the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Speaker Disclosures:
Financial: Dr. Richard Schwartz is the Founder and President of the IFS Institute. He maintains a private practice and has a employment relationship with Harvard Medical School. He receives royalties as a published author. Dr. Schwartz receives a speaking honorarium, recording, and book royalties from Psychotherapy Networker and PESI, Inc. He has no relevant financial relationships with ineligible organizations.
Non-financial: Dr. Richard Schwartz is a fellow of Meadows Behavioral Healthcare and is a member of the American Family Therapy Academy and the American Association for Marital and Family Therapy. He is a contributing editor for Family Therapy Networker. Dr. Schwartz serves on the editorial boards for the Journal of Feminist Family Therapy, the Contemporary Family Therapy, the Journal of Family Psychotherapy, and the Family Therapy Collections.

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  • List 3 protocols of IFS therapy and how to apply them when working with clients who have complex developmental trauma.


Family therapist, Richard Schwartz introduces the concept of Internal Family System (IFS)- a clear, systematic methodology for helping clients heal themselves.

A basic premise of IFS is that the “Inner Self” is not a single, monolithic persona, but in fact, a complex Internal Family System (IFS) of different parts-or sub-personalities-each with its own sometimes antagonistic memories, viewpoints, desires, and agendas.

Understanding IFS Parts
  • They are sub-personalities or aspects of our personality that interact internally in sequences and styles that are similar to the ways that people interact
  • All parts are valuable and want to have a positive role
  • Parts become extreme and can be destructive because of life experiences

Three most common roles played by internal parts
  • Exiles. Young, vulnerable parts that have experiences trauma and are isolated from the rest of the system for their own and the system’s protection. Exiles carry the memories, sensations, and emotions of the events and are stuck in the past
  • Managers. Parts that run the day-to-day life of the person trying to keep exiles exiled by staying in control of events or relationships, being perfect and pleasing, caretaking, scaring the person out of taking risks by criticizing, apathy, worry, etc.
  • Firefighters. Parts that react when exiles are activated in an effort to extinguish their feelings or dissociate the person from them. Common firefighter activities include: drug or alcohol use, self mutilation (cutting), binge-eating, sex binges, suicidal ideation, and rage. Firefighters have the same goals as managers (to keep exiles away), but different, more impulsive strategies

Understand the Self in IFS
  • The Self is a different level of entity than the parts
  • It is the seat of consciousness-sometimes called the “observing self.”
  • In IFS, the Self is known to contain qualities like compassion, confidence, curiosity, and perspective

Basic Goals of IFS:
  • To release parts from their extreme roles so they can find and adopt their preferred, valuable roles
  • To differentiate client’s Self so Self can help harmonize and balance a client’s inner and outer life

Introduction of case study: a clinical video demo using IFS with a client who has a history of complex developmental trauma

Video illustrates the key steps in the IFS model:
  • Assess the client’s external system to make sure it is safe to do work
  • Introduce IFS language to client
  • Ask what client would like to change
  • Explore the roles and relationships among prominent internal parts
  • Identify and work with managers first
  • Ask about and defuse any dangerous firefighters
  • With permission of managers, begin working with exiles
  • Notice how the client’s deeper Self-characterized by confidence, compassion, and wisdom-emerges during the process
  • Observe the Core Self assume a leadership role in integrating conflicted and disowned inner parts
  • Throughout the process, notice how the therapist keeps his own parts from interfering


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