An Introduction to the Internal Family Systems Model

Presented by Richard C. Schwartz, PhD on 05-27-2016 at 9 a.m. Pacific (noon Eastern) to 11 a.m. Pacific (2 p.m. Eastern)

The Internal Family Systems (IFS) model, which aims to lead those in treatment toward the Self, an inner state of clarity and compassion, was developed by Richard Schwartz, PhD, over the course of 30 years. During this time, he focused on listening to the people he treated in therapy, rather than letting trained assumptions guide him. He discovered it was possible for those in therapy to calm troubling internal voices, anxious thoughts, distractions, and negative feelings of vulnerability, inadequacy, and overwhelm, once they had reached the Self. When the people he treated addressed those parts of the psyche patiently and respectfully, the parts responded, and transformation was achieved. Once the parts are witnessed and accepted, Schwartz found, they forsake internal battles and instead take on valuable internal roles. 

Family systems principles and techniques are now widely applied to inner systems and used internationally to treat trauma and severe diagnoses. In addition, these principles and techniques are often used in business consulting, meditation practice, and other non-clinical applications. Through IFS, therapists may be able to find and heal parts of themselves, which can lead to a more enjoyable, effective, and effortless practice. People in therapy can often achieve lasting changes in behavior and become better able to relate to people, once they are able to heal and reorient their "inner families" in the therapy environment, which is one of genuine acceptance. IFS is a gentle healing delivery system, but it is also powerful and can trust and empower the Self of those in therapy. 

In this workshop, the history, development, basic principles, techniques, and goals of IFS will be discussed and illustrated with experiential exercises and videos. Participants in this practical workshop will explore the benefits of IFS therapy and learn new perspectives and methods that can be applied in treatment. 

This introductory, instructional level web conference is designed to help clinicians:

  1. Discuss basic assumptions of IFS in regard to the concept of "Self" and the non-pathological multiplicity of mind.
  2. Explain the concept of releasing uncomfortable feelings and beliefs to allow harmony and balance in the inner system.
  3. Demonstrate a general knowledge of the three categories of sub-personalities most often seen in therapy—manager parts, firefighter parts, and exiled parts.
  4. Summarize the dynamics of the three-group system. 
  5. Describe the IFS concept of SELF, discussing and identifying its qualities—curiosity, compassion, confidence, courage, clarity, creativity, connectedness, calmness— its role, and its effectiveness as a leader in the system. 
  6. Discuss the therapeutic relationship as it applies to the IFS therapist.

If you have any questions or concerns about this web conference or would like more information, please contact us here.

Event Reviews from Members

Always wonderful learning from someone so influential in the field! - Lisa King Smith, EdS, LPC

Richard Schwartz really paced things beautifully. I also appreciated his openness about how he developed the model and his early mistakes. - Cory Fehlberg, LMFT

Excellent presentation! So helpful to so many people! - Denise Zajac, MS, LMFT

I have done parts work with many clients. Breaking it down and being so specific with the protectors was helpful information. I can see where this will avoid the backlash that often happens after opening up a vulnerable part. - Elaine Willey, MA, LMHC

Thank you! Watching an approach in action teaches us much. - Catherine GruenerLCPCNCC

Continuing Education (CE) Information

Two CE credits will be provided by for attending this web conference in its entirety. is an Approved Education Provider by NAADAC, The Association for Addiction Professionals (provider #135463). Of the eight counselor skill groups ascribed to by NAADAC, this course is classified within counseling services. is an NBCC-Approved Continuing Education Provider (ACEPTM) and may offer NBCC-approved clock hours for events that meet NBCC requirements. is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. maintains responsibility for this program and its content., SW CPE is recognized by the New York State Education Department's State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers #0395.

To receive CE credit hours for an archived event, you will need to complete a survey as well as a 12 or 15-question exam, verifying that you listened to or watched the event in its entirety. Archived CE events generally are considered "homestudy" by licensing boards.

Registration Information

Premium and Pro Membership with GoodTherapy includes access to this web conference at no additional cost, as well as other member benefits such as a profile listing in GoodTherapy's Therapist Directory. Not yet a member? Sign up for a Premium or Pro Membership, here.

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Mental health professionals who are not members can access the homestudy recording for $15.50. Sign up here to purchase this CE course and earn a CE certificate.

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Meet the Presenter

Richard C. Schwartz, PhD

Richard C. Schwartz, PhD

Both an academic and systemic family therapist, Richard Schwartz has been an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at both the University of Illinois at Chicago's Institute for Juvenile Research and The Family Institute at Northwestern University. Schwartz is a featured speaker for national professional organizations and is on the editorial boards of four different professional journals. In addition to co-authoring Family Therapy: Concepts and Methods, the most commonly used textbook for family therapy instruction in the United States, with Michael Nichols, he has published five other books and more than 50 articles on Internal Family Systems (IFS).

IFS developed in response to descriptions given by people he saw in therapy of various parts of themselves. His grounding in systems thinking led him to focus on the relationship between these parts, and he noticed systemic patterns in the way parts were organized across individuals. Eventually, he discovered that when individuals—rather, their parts—felt safe, they could relax and experience confidence, openness, and compassion, qualities Schwartz came to refer to as the Self. He found individuals in that state of self to have the knowledge of how to heal their parts. Through this nonpathologizing, hopeful approach to therapy, people in treatment were able to experience relief of symptoms and address difficulty with new techniques that allowed for alternative ways of understanding psychic function and healing ability.

Schwartz founded the Center for Self Leadership in 2000. This center, which is based in Oak Park, Illinois, offers three levels of IFS training as well as workshops for both professionals and the general public. CSL also holds an annual national conference and publishes various materials, including DVDs of Dr. Schwartz's work. These materials can be found on CSL's website. A number of European countries now hold IFS trainings and workshops, as well.

Schwartz's publications include:

  • You Are The One You’ve Been Waiting For: Bringing Courageous Love to Intimate Relationships 
  • Internal Family Systems Therapy
  • Introduction to the Internal Family Systems Model 
  • The Mosaic Mind: Empowering the Tormented Selves of Child Abuse Survivors (with Regina Goulding)
  • Metaframeworks (with Doug Breunlin and Betty Karrer)

Continuing Education Provider Approvals

  • is Approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. maintains responsibility for this program and its content.
  • Logo has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 6380. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs.
  • Logo This course has been approved by, as a NAADAC Approved Education Provider, for educational credits. NAADAC Provider #135463. is responsible for all aspects of their programming.
  •, LLC is recognized by the New York State Education Department's State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers #SW-0395.
  •, LLC is recognized by the New York State Education Department's State Board for Mental Health Practitioners as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed marriage and family therapists #MFT-0022 and for licensed mental health counselors #MHC-0031.

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