Self and the System


IFS was developed by Richard C. Schwartz, PhD, LMFT in the mid 1980’s. It is a gentle, respectful way of working with clients without pathologizing. Here are some basic assumptions of this type of therapy:

  • From the time we are born into a family, we learn what is valued in that family and what is not. We learn family beliefs and carry family burdens and childhood wounds into adulthood.
  • It is normal and natural for the mind to hold any number of parts, who make up our internal system.
  • At the core is a Self, who embodies qualities that are necessary for leadership of the internal system.
  • All parts are welcome and want what is best for the individual. At best, they all interact in harmony.
  • Problems arise when parts take on extreme roles.
  • Problems can resolve by getting to know these parts and changing the relationship between the Self and the parts.


Here is what is most important for you to know. I will not work in any way without your permission or the permission of your parts. I fully respect your decisions about what happens or does not happen while in my office. Together we can bring about change and some relief from symptoms working in whatever way feels comfortable. No matter how we choose to work, I will always see the healthy Self inside of you and welcome all of your parts.

© Paula Pohlhammer, MSMFT, LCPC

If you are interested in learning more about Internal Family Systems therapy, check back for future articles and visit the IFS website: