Richard Schwartz

Richard Schwartz

Richard Schwartz is a contemporary psychotherapist who founded the Internal Family Systems Model (IFS) of therapy. 

Professional Life

Richard Schwartz attended Purdue University, where he received a PhD in marriage and family therapy. He began his professional career as associate professor at the Institute for Juvenile Research at the University of Illinois. Later, Schwartz joined The Family Institute at Northwestern University as an associate professor.

Schwartz developed a therapeutic technique called Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS) after working with a number of clients who claimed to recognize that they had several components, or parts, to themselves. Schwartz observed that his clients’ parts were often rebellious and troublesome when unattended to and more compliant and obedient to what Schwartz termed the larger self when they were acknowledged and their needs were addressed.

Schwartz established The Center for Self Leadership (CSL) in 2000 to provide training in IFS. The organization offers workshops throughout the world to clinicians and laypeople. Through its website, CSL presents conferences and various resources to those interested in learning IFS. 

Contribution to Psychology

Schwartz developed Internal Family Systems Therapy in an effort to help clients heal themselves. IFS is a non-pathologizing technique that is based on compassion, trust, honesty, and encouragement and invites clients to acknowledge each unique part of themselves and to recognize the strengths and weaknesses within them and how they influence behaviors and emotions.

IFS claims that consciousness is broken down into several parts, or personalities. The parts each have distinct characteristics, and Schwartz labels them as follows:

  • Managers serve a protective role and control the ways in which a person interacts with the external world. 
  • Exiles are parts of the person that experience anxiety, fear, or trauma. Both managers and firefighters attempt to suppress exiles in an effort to avoid pain. 
  • Firefighters work to address exiles by preventing people from experiencing pain. Firefighters attempt to distract the exiles, frequently causing them to focus excessively on other pursuits, including unhealthy activities, such as excessive drinking or drug use. 

Some of these parts may develop an alliance with one another. For example, managers and firefighters work together to keep exiles in exile. Two components can also exist in polarization when they are combating one another. An exile wants to express her pain, while a firefighter attempts to distract her from doing so.

According to IFS, there is a true self ruled by connectedness and compassion that exists in each person, underneath these personality components. IFS attempts to help clients remove their focus on component parts, allow the parts to accept one another in order to work together, and refocus on their true selves. 

IFS practitioners argue that this treatment can be particularly effective for those experiencing trauma, and Schwartz originally developed his approach working with trauma clients. IFS is used in group settings, individually, and with couples. IFS is also a valuable resource to clinicians and professionals in educational settings and can be used in mentoring situations and as a method of peer counseling.

Like many newer modes of therapy, there are currently no empirical studies comparing IFS to other forms of treatment, and the long-term success of IFS clients has not been measured. 

Dick Schwartz Featured on

Dick Schwartz has presented two continuing education web conferences with, available to clinicians for CE credits:

Books by Richard Schwartz

  • Introduction to the Internal Family Systems Model (2001)
  • The Mosaic Mind: Empowering the Tormented Selves of Child Abuse Survivors (with R. Goulding, 2002)
  • You Are The One You've Been Waiting For, Bringing Courageous Love To Intimate Relationships (2008)

Steele, C. (1996). Internal family systems therapy. Family Relations, 45(3), 355. Retrieved from

Last Update: 07-14-2015

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