Courses

Inner Child Work & Protectors: Parts Work Internal Family Systems

About the Course

This course will teach you how to use Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS) to resolve psychological issues and heal underlying pain from the past, and also to work with clients in this way. IFS is a powerful, user friendly method of psychotherapy and personal growth work. It is a recognized, proven method for individual psychotherapy with a robust training program and thousands of certified therapists. It will help transform stuck parts of yourself into inner resources of strength, love, and freedom.

IFS is based on the idea that the psyche consists of sub-personalities, called parts, which make up a kind of inner system. Parts often get into conflicts with each other and act in dysfunctional ways in an attempt to protect us from pain. All of this happens largely outside our awareness, and when we do see what is happening, we frequently try to banish the parts that are causing the difficulties. Yet this hardly ever solves the problem. IFS, on the other hand, teaches us to relate to our parts with openness, curiosity, and compassion, not judgment, which allows each part to reveal its hidden agenda and the pain it defends against. This paves the way for healing and transformation, which can be accomplished by following the detailed procedure taught in this course. The psyche is largely organized to protect itself from pain, which is why IFS makes a distinction between parts that are in pain and parts that protect us from it. Protectors are parts that handle the external world and protect against vulnerability and pain. Exiles are young child parts that are in pain from the past. Protectors try to arrange our lives so that people can’t hurt our exiles, and when this does happen, protectors shut us down emotionally to keep us from feeling the pain. This noble effort doesn’t really work; the suffering still leaks through at odd moments. Furthermore, the defenses instituted by protectors make us relate to the world in troublesome ways, or they blunt our aliveness or rob us of important capacities. IFS is able to transform the psyche by relying on the healing power of our true Self or spiritual center, which has four important qualities (connectedness, curiosity, compassion, and calmness). IFS work is not primarily about understanding parts intellectually, although that does happen. It involves going deep inside and accessing them on an experiential level through emotions, images, body sensations, or internal dialogue. You and your clients engage the part in a relationship and come to understand it on a gut level.
In the IFS process, before you can get to know one of our parts in a beneficial way, you must be in Self. From the vantage point of Self, you are separate from the part; it is not blended or entangled with you. You are centered rather than experiencing the anger, judgment, or other feelings of the part. You are clear and unbiased, not caught up in the part’s dysfunctional beliefs. You will learn how to help your clients unblend from a protector before you work with it.
IFS teaches a new and loving way to relate to our parts. Usually when we become aware of one, the first thing we do is evaluate it. Is it good or bad? Do we like it or not? If we decide it is good, we embrace it, give it power, and act from it. If we decide it is bad, however, we try to get rid of it. However, that doesn’t work. You can’t get rid of a part of yourself. All you can do is push it into the unconscious, where it will continue to affect you without your awareness. In IFS, we do something radically different from evaluating our parts. We welcome all our parts with curiosity and compassion, which allows us to connect with each part, gain its trust, and ultimately heal it. We don’t judge the “problem” parts; rather, we seek to understand them and appreciate their efforts to help us, without losing sight of the ways they cause problems. It is the spiritual quality of the Self that gives us the capacity to be so completely accepting.
Every part of your psyche is doing its best to help you, even those protectors that are a thorn in your side. Each protector truly believes it is safeguarding you from pain or harm, even though its methods may be misguided. Understanding that it has a positive intent helps you to appreciate it rather than reject it. When we analyze our parts intellectually, we cannot truly understand and connect with them. The information we obtain will be limited and we won’t develop the deeper relationship with parts that is crucial to the rest of the healing process. You will learn how to ask parts revealing, insightful questions and genuinely listen to their responses, which may come in words, in images, in body sensations, in emotions, or from direct knowing. In this way you make a direct experiential connection with your parts. In IFS, working with a protector isn’t just a matter of getting information and insight. You must build a trusting relationship with it. You cannot reach exiles without permission from the protectors that are standing guard over them and preventing access. The reason protectors take on extreme roles in the first place is that they believe they are on their own in defending against threats and suffering. Either they don’t know that Self is there, or they don’t believe it has enough strength and wisdom to handle threatening situations. Success in IFS depends on the degree to which you connect with protectors and gain their trust. Then they can begin to relax and allow the Self to take a larger role in dealing with the world.

Students who take this course will:

  • Help a client to get into Self and work with a protector
  • Understand the psyche in parts terms
  • Help a client to access a part
  • Help a client to unblend from the target part
  • Help a client to get into Self in order to work successfully with a part
  • Help a client to get to know a protector and discover its positive intent
  • Help a client to develop a trusting relationship with a protector

About Jay Earley

Dr. Jay Earley, Ph.D., is a transformational psychologist, psychotherapist, group leader, author, teacher, and theorist. Jay teaches classes on Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS) for the general public and trains IFS therapists. He also leads Interactive/IFS groups. He is the author of Self-Therapy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Inner Wholeness Using IFS, Self-Therapy, Vol. 2 and 3, Freedom from Your Inner Critic, and Resolving Inner Conflict. He is also a social theorist and author of Transforming Human Culture.

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Unlimited Membership

  • Access to this course
  • Member Only Content
    Unlimited access to premium articles, special podcast series, and other member only content.
  • EPTV Streaming Video Service
    Access to EPTV Original Series and our video library of over 250+ hours of lectures, talks and workshops.
  • Wisdom School Courses
    Access to 60+ on-demand courses plus two new courses every month.