The Foundation for Self Leadership is pleased to announce that the findings from a second Foundation-funded study have been published.

The latest issue of Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, the American Psychological Association’s leading trauma specialty journal, features an article titled: “Online Group-Based Internal Family Systems Treatment for PTSD: Feasibility and Acceptability of Program for Alleviating and Resolving Trauma and Stress (PARTS).”

The article is co-authored by a team led by Zev Schuman-Olivier, MD and includes contributions from Alexandra Comeau, MA, Lia J. Smith, PhD, Lydia Smith, BS, Hanna Soumerai Rea, MA, Mary Catherine Ward, MA, Timothy B. Creedon, PhD, Martha Sweezy, PhD, and Lawrence G. Rosenberg, PhD. The research was conducted at the Center for Mindfulness and Compassion, part of the Cambridge Health Alliance healthcare system, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital.

The study, a proof-of-concept, single-arm, stage 1 behavioral health study, sought to assess the feasibility, within a public community healthcare system, of delivering an online group-based trauma treatment (PARTS) utilizing the Internal Family Systems (IFS) approach for patients with PTSD. The results indicated that the PARTS intervention was well attended, helpful, acceptable, and significantly effective in reducing clinical symptoms.

Findings from group-based IFS treatments, such as this, have the potential to foster the implementation of IFS in community-based hospitals and mental health clinics as well as online. This article is an important contribution to the growing body of IFS research literature and the findings are consistent with the first Foundation-funded study of IFS for PTSD, published by Hilary Hodgdon, PhD and colleagues.

PARTS Pilot Study Details

The PARTS study included a 16-week online program with 90-minute IFS-based group sessions and eight 50-minute individual IFS counseling sessions. Fifteen participants meeting criteria for PTSD were enrolled at an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse community healthcare system in the Metro-Boston area.

Using several PTSD measures, including the gold standard objective Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS-5), the study authors observed significant reductions in PTSD severity (Cohen’s d absolute values were large, ranging from .7 to 1.2). Reliable change and clinically meaningful responses were reported among 53% of participants at week 24 (two months after study completion).

The PARTS intervention also resulted in significant decreases in anxiety, depression, suicide risk, self-reported disturbances in self-organization and emotional dysregulation, as well as increases in decentering and self-compassion at weeks 16 and 24. The authors identified preliminary evidence for decentering, self-compassion and emotional regulation as potential mechanisms of change in PTSD symptomatology using the IFS approach.

Future Research Directions

This pilot study lays the groundwork for a pilot randomized control trial (RCT) for PTSD using an attention and time matched comparison which may provide insight into the feasibility of conducting a fully powered, multisite RCT for PTSD. By controlling for group and time effects, such a pilot RCT could also help further elucidate the unique mechanisms of IFS for alleviating PTSD symptoms.

Indeed, said RCT, in addition to another pilot study of PARTS for PTSD and substance use, were both already funded by the Foundation for Self Leadership and granted to the same team of researchers led by Zev Schuman-Olivier, MD, Associate Professor in the Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry. These studies were also conducted at Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, MA, USA and are now in the data analysis and manuscript preparation phase.

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The Foundation recognizes all those involved in the study, applauds their significant contributions, and is grateful to friends of the Foundation who helped fund this study and made it possible. The Foundation funded this study through charitable donations in order to further its mission of broadening access to IFS and Self leadership in our world.

The full study can be found at the following website: https://psycnet.apa.org/fulltext/2024-98110-001.html

Supplemental materials about IFS mechanisms and study details can be found through this website: https://supp.apa.org/psycarticles/supplemental/tra0001688/tra0001688_supp.html

For additional information about the study, please contact Zev Schuman-Olivier at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. To inquire about other IFS-research-related developments, please reach out to Ilanit Tal, PhD, the Foundation's Associate Director for Research at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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