IN THIS ISSUE:
From the Board
From the Editor
Inward & Outward
In Psychotherapy & Counseling
Beyond Psychotherapy & Counseling
From the IFS Library
About the Foundation
Please note that, given the large size of this 14th issue, the html version will be posted in phases. You may access the full PDF version from the left margin. Thank you for your patience. We believe the richness of this issue is worth the wait!
OUTLOOK welcomes and is grateful to the following sponsors, whose support
has made its publication possible.
The IFS Telehealth Collective - IFSTherapyOnline.com
Altraform.com, by Theresa Velendzas, MS
Sentur.App, by Sarah Houy, MA, LPC & Faris Sweis
Daily Parts Meditation Practice™ (DPMP™), by Michelle Glass, CIFSP
The Elusive Self, a book by Marcel Duclos, LCMHC, LPC
Introduction to IFS, workshop en Español, by Analía Castaños, LMHC
Please note that none of the Sponsored Spaces appearing in OUTLOOK are being formally endorsed by the Foundation for Self Leadership or IFS Institute, its sister organization.
Sponsoring entities are not formally affiliated with either organization.
From the Board
Expanding the Reach of Self Leadership
Taking Self leadership to the world—this is the aspiration that motivates us
as board members of the Foundation for Self Leadership. Some might consider
it grandiose for a relatively small group to champion such an ambitious vision.
Our confidence rests not in ourselves; it rests in the efficacy of the Internal
Family Systems model, and in an ever-growing community of individuals who
are committed to sharing this unique understanding of the human personality
within their circles of influence.
I came to IFS a decade ago when an old friend I had lost contact with reached
out to wish me a happy birthday and added, “By the way, given the work you do
in executive coaching and teambuilding, you might want to look into the Internal
Family Systems model.” A few years later, I was on an airplane returning home from
an IFS conference in Boston. My seatmate asked what I had been doing in Beantown,
so I shared with him my delight in having been with fellow travelers on the road to
Self leadership. He, in turn, shared with me that he had been in Boston to support a
family member who was in desperate need of emotional support following a difficult
divorce. We kept in touch; and within a few months, he reported back to me that his
family member was seeing an IFS therapist on a regular basis and was on
a path back to emotional health and well-being.
Every one of us has a story about how we found IFS or it found us. Every one of us
also has access to a piece of the world that would benefit from understanding parts
and Self and the innate capacity we have to quiet the inner cacophony and achieve
a more harmonious way of living. We can take IFS to the world, our world, in a
spontaneous fashion, as often happens. We can also do so in a planned, organized
way. As board members, we do both. We each have our circles of influence in our
families, communities, and places of work. We have also chosen to join together to
get the synergies that occur when like-minded people with a shared passion to bring
greater peace, compassion, and emotional wellness to the world put their heads
and their hearts into achieving collective impact.
The board is celebrating its full eighth year of existence just as the Model for Self
Leadership approaches its 40th anniversary in three years. I know I speak for the
entire board of directors when I say that we have never been more excited about
what lies ahead for the use of the Model and for the work of the Foundation. As
strange as it may sound—or perhaps not so strange, all things considered—we have
made big leaps forward during the last 1.5 years of living with COVID-19 and all of
its impacts. For sure, this scourge has magnified our awareness of “parts on parade”
as we deal individually and collectively with this existential threat. It has also further
deepened our already deep commitment to being of service through our mission
in this most trying of times.
For example, never has our work on IFS research that validates the efficacy
of the Model felt more important. We want IFS to be readily available for use
ubiquitously in therapeutic settings and anywhere else it can have impact—in
hospitals, in veterans’ centers, in schools, in businesses, in politics, at dinner tables.
The importance of our research efforts is underscored in the work the Foundation
is doing now to support IFS for military veterans, where the evidence that
research provides is often the price of admission.
Our work to help introduce IFS into schools has taken on
new meaning at a time when schools are increasingly exploring
“mindfulness” to support a healthier learning environment. We all
recognize the more apparent impacts that COVID-driven virtual
learning has had on children’s socialization and quality of learning,
including the inequity for families in the lower economic strata.
One of our board members reminded us that there are children
for whom school is also a safe-haven, a place where an adult cares
about them and their well-being. It is gratifying as a Foundation
to support those within the IFS community who are creating a
Self leadership curriculum to help address the multi-dimensional
challenges facing administrators, teachers, and students in their
return to school this fall.
The Foundation sees itself as an incubator for expanding the
reach of Self leadership in enterprising ways brought forward
by a committed IFS community of practice. There are new worlds
and new pathways to be further explored, including medicine,
politics, and peacemaking. As a board, we welcome your ideas
about the work you would most have us do as we carry out our
mission of supporting empirical research, advocacy within and
beyond psychotherapy, and access to training for those with
limited financial resources. We also ask that you consider joining
us in board service or nominating someone who you think would
help us make the difference in any of these areas. And of course,
we appreciate and rely on your financial support as we work
alongside you to take IFS to a hurting world desperately
in need of hope and healing.
Faithfully yours on the journey,
Vicki McCoy, MA, Chair of the Board
On behalf of the Board of the Directors
Requina Barnes, LICSW; Stew Brown, PhD; Les Fagen, MA, JD; Kelly Gaule, CAP; Toufic Hakim, PhD; Executive Director & Publisher of OUTLOOK; Sady Kim-Singh, MSW, LCSW
To contact a board member, please email FirstName@FoundationIFS.org (example: Vicki@FoundationIFS.org).
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From the Editor
When one door closes another door opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. – Alexander Graham Bell
Dear IFS Community, As editor, I have sat in a seat of privilege for the past seven years. I have had the rare opportunity not only of interviewing so many incredible individuals and organizations (some of you), but also of communicating to you the valuable articles which result from these conversations. This privilege extends to my collaboration with the Foundation’s board and associates, the staff at IFS Institute, and working with the wonderful team that brings OUTLOOK to your eyes. It’s a role I have greatly enjoyed. I’ve been cognizant in never taking for granted my role and the benefits that have come from it.
Therefore, you might imagine that it is tremendously bittersweet to announce this is my last edition. While I will remain active with the Foundation as an editorial advisor, I leave my role as editor so that I can focus my attention on three areas that have been demanding my attention for some time: The Daily Parts Meditation Practice™ (DPMP™)—the book I wrote in 2017— and various applications of it are taking off to greater heights; the completion of writing my healing memoir necessitates a lack of interruption; and the desire to create a better work-to-life balance. I discuss more about this and my role as editor in the interview, Looking Back and Moving Forward: An Interview with Outgoing OUTLOOK Editor Michelle Glass.
We might consider a portion of this extended quote from Bell, “When one door closes another door opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us,” as parts of us who can impact our decision-making. Fortunately because of the Model, we are afforded ample opportunities to heal our parts empowering us to make Self-led decisions. I’m moving forward toward the new large windows opening for me, without regretfully looking back. In fact, I will take so many things I have learned from this position with me. As the pages of OUTLOOK have expanded exponentially, so too, has the depth and breadth of my knowledge.
I will forever appreciate those with whom I have worked, too many to name here (yet are all mentioned in the interview), thank you! However, it is essential to acknowledge three individuals. I want to express my deepest gratitude to Toufic Hakim, PhD, our executive director, for the multitude of ways he has mentored and encouraged me and for our fantastic friendship. Likewise, I want to voice my appreciation of Shaun Dempsey, PhD, our assistant editor, for his reliability, his practical utilization of the Model in our projects, and our friendship. Finally, I share my gratitude of Sylvia Miller, our graphic designer, for her creativity and the magical ways she brings the magazine to full life.
Every edition has brought with it many interesting features, and I can say that each one contains within it some favorites. This edition is no exception and I believe it is my favorite of all, as it contains several articles and topics near to my heart, in addition to being our largest edition to date. Among the many articles you will read are three consecutive articles on IFS and group therapy which highlight the benefits of this work: Creating Healing Circles Using IFS and Group Therapy; Bringing Therapy to the Masses: A Research Study Investigating Options for Delivering IFS in a Group-Based Format; and The Emergence of Group Self-Energy. Two features on legacy and cultural burdens along with one Story of Transformation, call attention to the necessity of healing that which is beyond our own direct experience: The Power of Working with Collective Burdens; and Israelis and Palestinians Collective Healing: Healing Our Trauma Together. Five Stories of Transformation capture the direct impact of IFS healing and form a bridge of connection from one person to another: Facing the Part I Thought Was Me; Marushka’s Personal Story; A High Six; Meeting an Old Friend; and Discovering the Gifts of My Exiles: Reconnecting with My True Self.
Features expanding efforts with military veterans and schools, Rethinking IFS Approaches for Military Veterans; Accessing Self Leadership in Schools - A Connecticut Initiative; and On the Way to a “Self-Led School” Designation: A Pilot Program Evaluation Summary, underline the efforts of the Foundation and the dedication of the individuals working in these institutional settings. IFS Steps into the Digital Age and Looking Back and Moving Forward: An Interview with Outgoing OUTLOOK Editor Michelle Glass present new and exciting applications for those using IFS in their personal and professional lives. Several other articles are sure to attract your attention. I personally hope you enjoy many or all of them.
It’s been a great honor to gift the resource of OUTLOOK to the community and beyond for so many years. It is my hope that the hardcopies of the magazine grace your offices and homes, sharing the wealth of information broadly with others. No matter what next steps face you as doors close and windows open, may your parts feel buoyed by inner and outer Self connections. I look forward to staying connected with you and hopefully seeing you in person soon. You can now reach me at either michelle@FoundationIFS.org or email@example.com.
IFS Research News
The Foundation-funded pilot study that examined
the effects of the IFS protocol in treating 12 individuals experiencing complex PTSD has now been
completed. The research involved online weekly IFS group therapy with bi-weekly individual IFS sessions. The results are being prepared for submission to peer-reviewed scientific journals by the researchers now and will be shared with the community as soon
as they can be made public.
“By training numerous clinicians in
IFS at an academic training institution with a strong commitment to community mental health and health equity, we hope to unlock synergies that are needed for conducting high-quality research while fostering an equitable culture of research supporting our
diverse communities from the outset.”
Zev Schuman-Olivier, MD, PI of the Foundation-funded PARTS Research Study
In light of the promising findings, the research team
at Cambridge Health Alliance, led by Zev Schuman-
Olivier, MD, has now been approved by the Foundation board to begin a two-year randomized, controlled trial of IFS for the treatment of community clinic patients with complex PTSD as well as a separate feasibility study for IFS for PTSD patients with dual diagnosis
of substance use disorder. (Donations from friends
of IFS continue to be vital to support the full
funding of these projects and can be made at
ANNOUNCEMENTS & INVITATIONS
To ensure that the Foundation continues to fund
the highest quality of research that will affirm
and broaden IFS as an evidence-based modality,
the Foundation is actively recruiting new members
for our research development team (for more
information please see FoundationIFS.org/research/research-development-team) and welcomes interest
The Foundation welcomes two new members
to the team: Michael Fitzgerald, PhD, and Beth
Mullen-Houser, PhD. Beth, currently a private practice clinical psychologist, has published and presented on psychotherapy research findings related to her extensive training, including with veteran and student populations, in female mental health, PTSD, polytrauma, substance abuse, and psychological assessment. Michael is Level 3 trained, has assisted in multiple Level 1 and Level 2 trainings, has recently published articles using the IFS Self Scale, and is an Assistant Professor in Child and Family Sciences at the University of Mississippi.
Jenn Matheson, PhD, LMFT, continues to catalogue and annotate articles in the Foundation-sponsored
online IFS Resource Database. Clinicians looking for a way to contribute to the research literature are encouraged to consider writing up an interesting case to be submitted as a case study for publication in an academic journal, which would, of course, be catalogued in this database. Interested volunteers are always welcome to help
sustain this effort.
Engaged or interested in engaging in research?
Please share thoughts, questions, and relevant
developments with Research@FoundationIFS.org.
IN PSYCHOTHERAPY AND COUNSELING
Editor’s Note: The sleeping giant of IFS initially introduced to the therapy world by Richard Schwartz, PhD, over 35 years ago, has exploded in the last decade and is currently experiencing an exponential increase in interest from clients, therapists, and potential trainers around the world. It seems everyone wants to be involved in, or exposed to, this outstanding therapeutic intervention! But with the standard limitations of personnel and time, combined with the extraordinary limitations of the most serious global pandemic for over a century, demand for IFS is currently outstripping supply, resulting in a rethink of how this life-changing intervention can be successfully delivered to more people.
Part of this rethink involves the use of IFS for group therapy. IFS Institute training over the years has traditionally been delivered in groups and provides a working model illustrating how IFS is successfully delivered and well-received in large groups. IFS trainers utilize specialized principles of group dynamics when delivering training which can be adapted for the delivery of group therapy. When seen through this lens, the advantages of using IFS for group therapy become obvious. Academic research into group therapy is needed and thankfully has already commenced.
Another part of the rethink involves the use of technology to augment the delivery of traditional IFS services for clients and therapists. For example, the use of videoconference technology to deliver therapy and training has become commonplace in the last year and a half as a result of the global pandemic. But the recent development of an IFS-specific app designed to collate and integrate IFS resources for clients is another step in this process of increasing access to clients and represents a further evolution in the delivery of the Model.
This edition of OUTLOOK features a number of articles that address the above issues related to the need to expand the delivery of IFS by utilizing group therapy and the advancing technology which supports it. _SD
Creating Healing CirclesUsing IFS and Group Therapy
Chris Burris LPC, LMFT, is well known for his work with men’s groups and conscious eldering and has been a Lead Trainer with IFS Institute since 2008. With a growing awareness of the need for group therapy to increase access to the IFS Model in the therapeutic space, Chris has spent the last two years writing a book on the topic due for release later this year. Let’s take a look at the role of group therapy from his perspective and get Chris’s views on the advantages that can be enjoyed when using IFS in a group format.
Having used IFS in individual therapy for years, Chris has recently turned his attention to the potential benefits of IFS group therapy. He notes that the basics of individual IFS therapy are largely replicated in group therapy with particular emphasis on maintaining fidelity to key components of the Model, such as parts detecting, the befriending of protectors, creating Self-to-part relationships, retrieval, and unburdening. However, he also outlines a range of specific advantages to group therapy—over and above the significantly expanded access to clients—which are simply not available in a standard therapist/client therapeutic relationship.
First, Chris relays that the use of psychodrama becomes an option in the group space, with participants available for activities such as parts sculpting that can often reveal hidden family dynamics in a way previously not articulated by verbal description alone. The experience of having their parts witnessed in such a supportive and openly experiential way provides a snapshot of their dynamics, opening up opportunities for growth and understanding. Group therapy also helps clients to normalize and support the universal understanding of multiplicity as participants are able to get to know their own system through witnessing similar parts in others. Additionally, if homework tasks such as journaling or parts mapping are set for the week ahead, participants are bound by their commitment to other group members, thus intensifying the honesty and commitment between group members and raising the level of authenticity of the group. In this way, Chris says, “The process becomes bigger than the individual.”
Group therapy also helps clients to normalize and support the universal understanding of multiplicity as participants are able to get to know their own system through witnessing similar parts in others.
He also shares the importance of meticulously setting up the parameters of the group to ensure that all participants are in the process together, thereby reducing the presence of critical observing parts. A detailed screening procedure, followed by the establishing of a solid group contract made up of participants’ individual intentions and objectives for their time in the group, further clarifies the direction of the group and sets up a clean process. Another significant advantage to group therapy observed by Chris is the therapeutic exploitation of the existing group culture to bond participants and increase vulnerability. For example, a group of military veterans will have explicit similarities with, and understandings of, each other, and as such will go the extra mile to support their colleagues and honor their parts.
But one of the major advantages to group therapy, from Chris’s perspective, is the role of group facilitators and their willingness to manage their own system and Self-energy when the group acts out. “We are going to get things wrong,” Chris says with a laugh. “So, it’s important to be prepared for public humiliation and to be able to handle that in a humble and transparent way while taking care of, and speaking for, our own parts.” The extent to which the therapist can manage this delicate task contributes significantly to the safety of the group. This leads Chris to talk about the importance of training in group therapy and dynamics, along with certification in the Model.
This type of healing would basically be impossible in a one-on-one therapeutic situation.
As an example of the power of group therapy, Chris relates a story about a participant in a group he worked with who had never felt loved and was acutely suicidal. At one point in the middle of a joint exercise, the participants had bonded in a way that allowed this man to start laughing. His laughing became infectious for all the other group members, and the whole group descended into a fit of belly laughing. In that moment,” Chris remembers, “this man experienced himself as being loveable for the first time ever. His harshly critical perception of himself dissolved, and he felt a positive dyadic attachment experience, having the sense for the first time ever that he was celebrated and adored.” This type of healing would basically be impossible in a one-on-one therapeutic situation.
Chris runs a 16-week group program, at the end of which participants routinely report a greater sense of community, better recognition of their own internal systems, and a keener sense of Self. He also uses the dynamics of group therapy while working with a group of trial lawyers who, like therapists, understand that the only tool they have is themselves, and as such they need to have a clear and unobstructed understanding of their own internal systems.
For more information on using IFS in group therapy, Chris’s book Creating Healing Circles Using IFS and Group Therapy will be released later this year. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org. _SD
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Bringing Therapy to the Masses:
A Research Study Investigating Options for Delivering IFS in a Group-Based Format
With IFS experiencing an exponential increase in interest worldwide, attention is turning to the role of the Model in group-based therapy. As part of this evolution, a research study in Massachusetts, USA, has been conducted to investigate an IFS group therapy model for participants with PTSD and complex PTSD. Join us as we meet the two therapists leading clinical aspects of this study and explore the nuances of IFS group-based therapy, teasing out some of the advantages involved for both clients and therapists.
Hanna Soumerai, LICSW, and Mary Catherine Ward, LICSW, are both clinicians in the busy Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) Outpatient Psychiatry Department at Cambridge Hospital in Massachusetts. As a social work intern in 2012, Hanna notes she was fortunate to have Martha Sweezy, PhD, as her supervisor and she remembers Martha drawing a link between her main treatment modality (IFS) and the fact that her patients get better quickly. At the same time, Mary Catherine, who had been working at the hospital since 1997, was a manager in the team, leading to her forming a close working relationship with Hanna. Soon after Hanna completed her internship, she and Mary Catherine were program assistants in an IFS Level I training together, followed closely by Hanna returning to the Cambridge Health Alliance as a full-time clinician.
Some years prior, in 2013, after completing Levels 1, 2, and 3 of IFS training, Mary Catherine started the first IFS group at CHA using similar principles to those used by IFS Founder Richard Schwartz, PhD, in his training demonstrations. That experience gave her the confidence that group IFS work could help the isolated, depressed complex trauma patients more quickly and more deeply embrace the gifts of IFS. She thought group work would be a good way to deepen their IFS skills to better support their parts, practice unblending, and appreciate others who had similar parts.
Around the same time, Hanna’s clinical director suggested formally creating an IFS team in the department, which led to a conversation around the possibility of doing some research. This was ultimately initiated and ably supported by Zev Schuman-Olivier, MD, as the principal investigator. Hanna approached Mary Catherine, who made time in her busy schedule, and with the assistance of Zev, Martha, Larry Rosenburg, PhD, and Nancy Sowell, LICSW, the deal was struck and put into action with the support of Lexi Comeau, MA, and Lydia Smith, BA, on the research team.
Hanna got busy writing the curriculum with assistance from the team and, with Mary Catherine as co-lead, they implemented the study which aims to create an IFS group therapy model for participants with PTSD and complex PTSD. The format of the study involved 16 weekly group meetings of 90-minutes each, with adjunctive bi-weekly individual IFS therapy sessions of 50-minutes each with a group leader. Graduates could move on to an alumni group for another 16 weeks with individual therapy, if needed.
“But in a group setting, that skepticism about the Model dissolves quickly as people watch each other engage.”
The pair acknowledge some significant benefits to delivering IFS as a group-based therapy. First, the impact of the group members being able to witness and support each other’s healing process was cited as being pivotal. “In an individual therapy session,” notes Hanna, “someone might look at me with suspicion when I ask them how they ‘feel towards a part.’ But in a group setting, that skepticism about the Model dissolves quickly as people watch each other engage.” Second, Hanna observes that being able to see someone else on their path of healing fosters hope in others and allows them to see their own experiences mirrored in others, which reduces shame. Third, and in a similar vein, both clinicians remark that with relationships being at the core of our lives, and often at the core of our traumas, the opportunity to process those traumas inside a safe and emotionally supportive inter-relational environment allows participants to experience healing on a number of different levels and encourages a deeper level of connection both with other participants as well as their own internal system. A final advantage to group therapy is the critical mass of Self-energy that can be generated, which also contributes to deeper processing for the participants and allows them to feel more connected and less alone.
As well as advantages for the participants, there are potential benefits for therapists. Hanna observes that had the IFS group therapy project not come about, she may have succumbed to therapeutic burnout. “I don’t think I could have continued the work individually. We care so much about our patients and try to do such a good job, but the structural limitations of inadequate insurance schemes combined with a high demand for services and the resultant heavy workloads create a busy and complex environment. So, the dynamic of IFS group therapy has allowed me to keep working in a way that helps the patients and is also sustainable for me.”
Mary Catherine wants to take it one step further and has hopes that, as people advance through several cohorts of group-based IFS, experienced participants could undergo supportive training and continue to work in peer-led IFS groups*, or even host future groups with the ultimate aim of “us getting ourselves out of a job!” Both Hanna and Mary Catherine feel strongly that one of the unique aspects of the study that has contributed to its success is the combination of group therapy meetings with the group therapy leaders concomitantly providing individual therapy to participants on a bi-weekly basis.
As if the challenges of producing a quality research project were not enough on their own, the pair faced the additional challenge of having their start date delayed due to the global pandemic. But with admirable ingenuity they simply pivoted and implemented the study online. One major advantage of running the study online was that it allowed people to receive treatment who otherwise might not have been able to due to obstacles around transportation, childcare, and other life demands.
... the opportunity to process those traumas inside a safe and emotionally supportive inter-relational environment allows participants to experience healing on a number of different levels and encourages a deeper level of connection both with other participants as well as their own internal system.
People also found the online chat function helpful as it opened up a space for more connection. For example, if someone shared an experience, people would follow up in chat, offering support and encouragement to each other. Both Hanna and Mary Catherine note that, to their surprise, the online format was not a barrier to people feeling connected and it did allow for group intimacy.
The bond and mutual respect between Hanna and Mary Catherine was palpable and they shared they have worked together for many years developing an easy relationship which has filtered down into the dynamics of their project. Mary Catherine observes, “We work together honestly and regularly speak for our parts. Hanna has shown a lot of courage in putting herself into the work and leading from the front and we know enough to trust each other and to trust the Model.” Hanna agrees and notes that when things came up inside the work, they would simply use IFS on the spot and “practice what we preach in terms of speaking for our parts.”
The data for the study have been collated and are now being analyzed. Initial findings are very promising and the pair hope to be able to speak about their success later this year. Hanna can be contacted at email@example.com and Mary Catherine can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org. __SD
* The May 2018 edition of OUTLOOK featured IFS Training on a Grand Scale: Genuine Embodiment of IFS in Mainstream China, an article focused not only on large-scale training but on a program called IFS-Based Inner Peace Coach (IPC). IPC are peer-led groups designed to foster wide-spread healing in the community. Perhaps as more IFS groups are established, more peer-led communities will also form.
The Emergence of Group Self-Energy
Having run Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and other
mindfulness-oriented groups, as well as facilitating group
therapy generally for the last 15 years, Hagit Zeev, MA, LMFT,
has now turned her considerable skills to conducting IFS-based groups in her studio in California and online throughout the
country. Come with us as we meet Hagit and gain some insight
into what she sees as the advantages of a group-based
approach when working with the IFS Model.
With a deep interest in spirituality and the role of Self-energy in healing, honed over years conducting a combination of Existential-Humanistic group work, Mindfulness, and IFS therapy, Hagit Zeev has developed a 10-week IFS course which introduces participants to the basics of IFS, ultimately providing a cradle for deep and abiding change. She acknowledges the important role of individual IFS therapy, noting that while it can take more time for protectors to trust the process, and sometimes longer to access the client’s Self, individual therapy works for almost everyone, can address most diagnoses, and provides a systematic approach to work through parts and unburdenings in a methodical way.
However, she reports with a laugh that many therapists and clients are apprehensive
about group therapy because of the potential for conflict between participants,
or between client and therapist. Interestingly, she shares that one of the main points
of the group is development of a robust and cohesive bond between participants,
and in that space, there arises the opportunity to allow conflict to come to the
surface, be held, and then processed by group as whole. This dramatic intensification
of Self-energy which is made manifest as a type of group Self-energy, is what Hagit
harnesses in her group work to facilitate meaningful transformation.
“People are mirrors of each other,” observes Hagit, “so,
when the group has been set up properly and someone
goes deeply into the work approaching an exile, for instance,
the other participants will tread the path of compassion and
follow that participant into the deeper work.”
“People are mirrors of each other,” observes Hagit, “so, when the group has been
set up properly and someone goes deeply into the work approaching an exile, for
instance, the other participants will tread the path of compassion and follow that participant
into the deeper work.” Hagit observes that when this happens and someone
bares their soul and shows vulnerability, this engenders compassion in the group as
a whole, which intensifies Self-energy even further, thus reinforcing the whole cycle.
She is meticulous in her screening of potential participants, ensuring that group
members possess a baseline of compassion, curiosity, and the other Cs which will
allow them to fully engage as well as offer support to others. She also investigates
the participants’ history of trauma and previous experience with group therapy
and, if they are not suitable for group work, will facilitate referral to an individual
therapist for work which may act as a bridge to group work in the future. Hagit uses
a potent combination of physical movement, psychodrama, and meditation—which
she developed during her time working with Nitsan Joy Gordon, MA,—in conjunction
with in-session demonstrations, to provide an ongoing invitation for participants to
be self-aware, notice, and name their parts as they arise in the moment.
While Hagit acknowledges the advantages of group therapy in terms of providing
clients with increased access to the Model, she shares a more nuanced perspective
in terms of what else it offers. “There is something bigger than just reaching more
people,” explains Hagit. “The notion of rugged individuality is a core value in the USA,
but there is a hunger and thirst for group connection and group experience all across
the USA—never more so than at the moment in the current political and pandemic
environment, and group therapy can help meet this need.” In terms of relational
trauma specifically, Hagit outlines that the provision of group therapy provides the
opportunity for healing a family experience that has gone wrong, or as a reminder
of a positive family experience with which the client has lost contact. “It’s about
providing a much needed and ancient connection with others,” she summarizes.
“... but there is a
hunger and thirst for
group connection and
group experience all
across the USA—
never more so than
at the moment in the
current political and
and group therapy can
help meet this need.”
It is in this vein that Hagit notes that
group therapy can lead to a harmonizing of
frequencies and an emotional attunement that
strengthens and reinforces the compassion and
connection, weaving strands of consciousness
that manifest as trust, hope, and belief in the
possibility of a better world.
She explains that group therapists often have
to hold a lot of energy, which can sometimes be
difficult as it requires a lot of self-awareness and
self-care. “Group work involves a lot of shadow
work, which can be intense and tricky,” she says,
“and the therapist needs to know how to hold
that energy.” This can sometimes take its toll
on the group therapist, but for Hagit, this is just
a sign that she needs to engage in self-care or
do some more of her own work. Her passion
for applying IFS in psychotherapy groups is
contagious. “I’m a big fan of the Model,”
concludes Hagit, “and I see how it enhances
truth and vulnerability in group work, which
eventually creates a community of individuals
who are open to themselves and others.” Hagit
can be contacted at email@example.com. _SD
“IFS is the language of the wounded, it is the doorway to the client’s inner world.”
Joy Shivas, MSW, LCSW
Shivas Challenge to the IFS Community: Match $100,000 USD Gift to Sustain and Empower Foundation for Self Leadership
Last June, Joy Shivas, MSW, LCSW, past IFS Assistant Trainer, asked members of the IFS community to join her in supporting the work of the Foundation. She would give the community twelve months to match her generous gift. That meant, on average, 200 donors needed to each give a $500 gift (or $42 a month with a recurring gift). As of September 1, 2021, 125 Friends of the Foundation donated $19,484 (and pledged an additional $9,068 through recurring gifts to be paid in installments over the next nine months). Thank you to those members of the IFS community who are helping to advance the practice of IFS.
Every gift received before June 1, 2022 will count toward the challenge. The Foundation for Self Leadership utilizes these crucial resources to advance the paradigm and practice of IFS, and to foster a more peaceful world.
THE POWER OF WORKING WITH COLLECTIVE BURDENS
Editor’s Note: Ann Sinko, LMFT, and IFS Lead Trainer, is well known for her work with legacy burdens inside the IFS Model. As a curious clinician looking for healing from her own ancestral issues, she developed a protocol for legacy and cultural unburdenings that has gained significant traction in IFS circles. Come with us as we unpack some of the nuances of this work and gain an introduction to the construct of legacy and cultural burdens and unburdenings. __SD
Ann started teaching the IFS Model in 1995 in the Marriage and Family Therapy program at Central Connecticut State University. As a family therapist, she found herself drawn to intergenerational models of understanding systems. Ann notes that she was fortunate to have excellent IFS mentors, including Barb Cargill, MA, ADTR, and Michi Rose, PhD, LMSW, who provided her with basic training in the construct of legacy burdens, which then allowed her to integrate concepts from Family Constellation work and shamanism as a way of moving her thinking forward around legacy and cultural unburdenings and, most recently, how these concepts are shaped by collective burdens.
Ann notes that the power of legacy unburdenings can cause dramatic shifts in a person’s individual system. She recalls a woman in her late 30s who was due to be married and had never had any relationship issues, and who came to see her because of a vague sense of family enmeshment and lack of individuation mixed with generalized anxiety and difficulty focusing her thoughts and attention. It transpired that her mother had been sexually abused, and her father had a family history of alcoholism, which imbued her whole ancestral history with a flavor of trauma and codependence. In these types of situations, Ann notes that the feelings become the enemy and that, with the gentle process of inquiry and a subsequent legacy unburdening, her client came back two weeks later having called off the wedding and having called out her ex-fiancé’s alcoholism, which had always been present but which she had previously been unable to name and confront.
Ann distinguishes between personal burdens, which result from our direct experience of trauma, and collective burdens, which can either manifest as legacy burdens or cultural burdens. Ann explains that legacy burdens are passed down directly through ancestral lines, while cultural burdens are infused in and passed down through the dominant culture (see text box 1). Ann also notes recent research relevant to collective burdens that takes into account epigenetics and the converging data indicating that children and grandchildren of individuals sustain the effects of their parents’ trauma through changes in the epigenetics occurring before birth and possibly before conception.
... and suddenly there is a potent mix of intergenerational mistrust and trauma, which has been brewing in individuals, families and societies over time, that is reinforced in a cyclical way and which is passed on down the chain.
She observes that in her own work with clients, the cyclical or repetitive nature of intergenerational trauma also manifests in collective burdens via the relationship between legacy burdens and cultural burdens. For example, the burdens from wars and natural disasters can be seen as cultural burdens that often become legacy burdens because their effects play out in, and are reinforced by, the family environment on an individual level. These individuals then contribute to the culture of the next generation and will often create or reinforce systemic burdens in the form of society’s rules, norms, or laws. For example, Jim Crow laws and rules around segregation came right out of slavery, and then those individuals (both white and Black) affected by the impact of slavery (i.e., personal burden) formed the next generation of people who consequently developed assumptions such as “Black people are dangerous” or “white people can’t be trusted” (i.e., legacy and cultural burdens). Throw Ann’s nine rules of shame into the mix (adapted from Imber-Black’s book, Secrets in Families and Family Therapy - see text box 2), and suddenly there is a potent mix of intergenerational mistrust and trauma, which has been brewing in individuals, families, and societies over time, that is reinforced in a cyclical way and which is passed on down the chain. Furthermore, until the right questions are posed, an individual frequently does not even know they are carrying a collective burden.
PERSONAL BURDENS come from our direct experience of being devalued and/or shamed—big-T and small-t trauma where there was not sufficient resource (e.g., Self-energy, secure attachment) to mitigate the impact of the event.
LEGACY BURDENS are passed down the ancestral lines through belief systems, emotions, energies, epigenetics and memories, both cognitive and somatic.
CULTURAL BURDENS are beliefs and energies absorbed by parts of us that take on the messages of the dominant culture. These burdens are systemically reinforced in our cultural values and institutions.
COLLECTIVE BURDENS are the constraining beliefs, norms, values and laws that are wrought from wars, natural disasters, genocide, slavery, abuse of Earth’s resources and so on.
But Ann shares that there is good news in all of this, noting that if a client brings both personal burdens and collective burdens to therapy, she will work with the legacy or cultural burden first. This is because they are usually quicker and easier to deal with, as protective parts are generally open to letting go of burdens that were not created in their lifetime, and witnessing is often not required. For Ann, dealing with collective legacy and cultural burdens is highly meaningful. “The work is so powerful and can bring drastic changes in peoples’ lives,” she says. “This phenomenon is real, and I love the science and research that are supporting legacy, cultural, and collective trauma these days. IFS is a modality that has a road map for addressing and healing them.”
CONTROL: Be in control of all behaviors and interactions, yours and everyone else.
PERFECTION: Always be “right,” do the “right” thing, strive for perfection, use criticism to try to ensure perfection.
BLAME: If something does not happen as you plan, if you feel something you don’t want to feel, blame (self or others).
DENIAL: Deny feelings, especially negative or vulnerable ones.
UNRELIABILITY: Do not expect reliability or constancy in relationships. Watch for the unpredictable. DO NOT TRUST!
INCOMPLETENESS: Don’t bring transactions to resolution or completion because you might have to face feelings or honest revelations you are protecting against. Don’t let secrets out.
NO TALK: Don’t talk openly and directly about shameful, abusive, or compulsive behaviors or feelings.
DISQUALIFICATION: When disrespectful, shameful, abusive, or compulsive behaviors occur, disqualify, deny, or disguise them, and make excuses.
COMPARE: Compare yourself to others and highlight how you are not as accomplished, attractive, smart—or have a level of privilege so you don’t deserve to feel the way you do. Be acutely aware of how you don’t measure up.
Adapted from Evan Imber-Black’s 8 Rules of Shame from Secrets in Families and Family Therapy
For more detailed information about legacy burdens and the protocol for working with them, see Ann’s chapter as follows: Sinko, A.L. (2017). “Legacy Burdens.” In Sweezy, M. & Ziskind, E.L. (Eds.,). Innovations and Elaborations in Internal Family Systems Therapy, New York: Routledge, pp. 164–178. Ann can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
RETHINKING IFS APPROACHES FOR MILITARY VETERANS
by Beau Laviolette, LCSW, and Ray Mount, PhD
We would like to report on a project which may shed some light on how to introduce the IFS model to military and veteran populations, so that it will become an integral part of treatment protocols.
Our project began a year and a half ago when Toufic Hakim, PhD, Executive Director of the Foundation of Self Leadership, invited us (both of us military veterans) to join a small group of IFS-trained therapists who had served in the military to meet with a group of psychotherapists providing services for patients on a naval base. We hosted phone and video-calls with this group a number of times, answering their questions and challenges about using IFS with their clients.
They had a series of questions in mind:
“How do we treat PTSD? Can IFS reduce suicide rates? Can the Model be used when clients are seen only a time or two? What if our military personnel or veterans can’t ‘meditate and go inside?’ What data do you have that will convince our clinical supervisors that the Model is evidence-based and equivalent to CBT?”
In addition, we were met with a moderate amount of skepticism—except for one member of the military group who had experienced his own IFS therapy and was highly motivated to share that positive experience with his colleagues. So, as part of a demonstration project, we volunteered to provide IFS therapy/consulting to two more members of the group over a number of weeks. As a result of our volunteer efforts and continued discussions, their interest grew in IFS, which led them to enroll in a formerly offered PESI course on IFS taught by Frank Anderson, MD. The PESI course stimulated more interest and more questions and led to our invitation to present them with an extensive workshop as an intro to clinical IFS.
The participants wanted more experience with the Model so they could begin to introduce high-level notions and elements of it into their own work. Also, they wanted help adapting the Model to the unique needs of military clients. Furthermore, they needed “prof statements” to demonstrate the efficacy of the Model so their superior officers could endorse its use. We met with the group a few times and developed this workshop collaboratively. Our intent was to pique their interest, support them in their immediate clinical struggles, and prepare them for advanced IFS trainings through the Institute.
Our experience taught us valuable lessons that may help others interested in bringing the IFS model into military and veteran environments. Following is a quick overview of the workshop, along with some observations. We stayed as close to the tenets of the IFS model as we could, while presenting it using many of the resources and examples from our own training and experience as program assistants. Also, we believe the fact that both of us are veterans was very helpful indeed.
About the Actual Workshop
The experience we were retained to lead began with two, one-hour long sessions followed by two, eight-hour day-long workshops and four, bi-weekly one-hour follow-up groups.
On the first day, entitled Assessment, we presented and administered a modified version of the validated IFS 20-item Self-Leadership Scale, went through the Model from contracting through the 6Fs, and included direct access.
The second day, which we called Healing, started work with exiles. The group wanted lots of time to practice; so, we spent most of our time doing demonstrations, exercises, and practice sessions. (In the future, we would suggest even more time spent in practice sessions. Though we offered breakout rooms on Zoom, the group seemed to prefer staying in the larger room where they could watch each member practice. This seems important to note, especially given that military training is done in groups and may be a better learning environment to practice.)
There was a two-week gap between full-day workshops where participants were encouraged to start applying the language and approach they had learned in their own work with clients. During the two-week gap, we worked individually with participants to help them with therapist parts and learn more about their own internal systems. Following the end of the second session, we continued working with the group for an hour every other week. During these sessions, we provided support and encouragement as they brought elements of the Model into their practices. We believe that this level of staff involvement is an important part of introducing the Model because it helped therapists gain confidence in using it. In addition, we believe it is important to provide ongoing access to training, supervision, and the IFS community in order to succeed at bringing IFS to the Veterans Administration and active military groups.
In the final phase of this project, inspired by what was learned, we stressed the need for regular ongoing supervision, individual IFS therapy, and encouragement to enroll in formal IFS trainings.
The Healing Corps is a group co-conceived by the Foundation and Ray Mount, of which he and Beau Laviolette are charter members. The Foundation supports the Corps, whose growing membership meet monthly to discuss emerging ideas and projects and provide peer support to each other. The Corps is dedicated to the ideals of “growth, connectedness, and service.” Opportunities are available for personal and professional growth through peer-to-peer supervision and support, connectedness through gatherings and engagement in joint projects initiated by Corps members and, ultimately, serving military veterans, active-duty personnel, and first responders in meaningful ways.
The Group Setting. Military personnel are trained in large groups, serve in groups, and are deployed to battle in groups. They collectively believe in and live by the culture that grows from their common mission and activity. This culture encourages the “buddy system,” where servicemembers learn to rely on each other for safety. Therefore, learning and exercise in dyads were an important feature of our program. In addition, teaching IFS group therapy could offer many advantages including cost-savings and number of people served.
IFS as an Overarching Framework. Another lesson from our project was that the military therapists were eager for IFS tools to help them when they got stuck with a client; and less likely change over to a new model they saw as abandoning the therapies they knew with confidence. Also, they were directed to follow IFS protocols when engaged in therapy and when writing notes. To address these concerns, we broke the Model down into “tools” they could draw from to add to their own therapy toolbox. In addition, we presented the analysis part of the Model (Day 1) in such a way that it integrated nicely into their style of note taking. For example, we had them imagine “symptoms” as “parts crying for help.” We underlined stuck places where tools from the Model could be used. Most helpful were the elements of the Model referred to as unblending, contracting, mapping, calming, and checking for availability of Self-energy. Using IFS techniques may gain more acceptance as we continue to work individually with “gate keepers” and military therapists. We see this as a mission for the Healing Corps.
Meeting Them at Their Comfort Level. We recognize how important it is in the IFS parlance for clients and therapists to be working in sufficient Self-energy; however, there are many clients for whom introspection is not a common practice and it is often inaccessible to them. We felt it would be better to introduce the concept of Self-energy by attaching it to the way clients have already (maybe unknowingly) experienced Self-energy. For example, it might be more fruitful to begin the discussion by building on clients’ life experiences and capturing moments when they may have felt “it”—what may have resembled a state of or wholeness—letting them flesh out what “it” means. Another idea is to ask veterans to list the reasons they enlisted in the military. Then, review the list together and draw parallels to the 8Cs. For example, connectivity can be seen as a vet’s desire to be part of “the military family,” and confidence and more courage are common words used by military recruiting.
For those interested in being part of this effort, please contact Outreach@FoundationIFS.org.
Psychological Resilience as a Selling Point. We also discovered that military personnel were keen on experiencing more psychological resilience, which we believe aligns nicely with Self-energy. (We called the 20-item exercise the “ASER: Availability of Self-Energy and Resilience.”) Psychological resilience seems to be a concept important to military personnel because it allows them to remain calm and flexible in stressful situations. Psychological resilience allows them to be better soldiers. On the other hand, discussions of Self-energy and “going inside and meditating” may be too triggering for this population. We found a mega-analysis by the Rand Group (2011)1 which defines psychological resilience that aligns nicely with Self-energy. Research demonstrating the correlation between Self-energy and psychological resilience could be a valuable tool to help demonstrate the value of the IFS model to the military culture.
Nature as Space for Healing. As therapists, we know that effective therapy depends on the trusting connection we have with clients. Many factors contribute to developing a trusting relationship and client buy-in to the model one uses. From the setting and décor of our office, to the exercises, examples, and language we use to connect, all are important considerations with this population. Is the normal clinical setting in a veterans’ hospital too triggering? We propose that a “safer,” more natural environment for our veteran groups is outside the office, in nature, hiking rather than sitting in a face-to-face configuration, even with a caring therapist. (See text box on the next page about our upcoming program.)
All of these observations have led to our next project.
WHERE WE GO FROM HERE:NATURE-EMPOWERED IFS TO PROMOTE COMBAT RESILIENCY
Over the past year and a half, we have been working on a program for veterans which introduces IFS in a context more consistent with what we see as the military culture. We have modified language and exercises to fit the specific needs of this population. Veterans are provided the opportunity to do Self-led work outdoors, reconnecting with the healing powers of nature.
Our Emerging Program.
The IFS-Informed Nature retreat consists of two and a half days of workshops in a natural setting— in the woods, in cabins, or in tents. The retreat consists of individual-, group-, dyad-, and lecture-style activities helping participants connect with each other and with their internal system. The process begins with an overview of the IFS model using examples in nature. Parts are identified and be-friended during individual hikes and recorded in a field guide for journaling. Time for hiking and journaling may be one hour. Each person will have a “field buddy” with whom to share experiences. They all then meet in a larger group to witness the work of others and to plan an intention for the next hike. This completes one cycle of work. During the 2 ½-day workshop, we should have time for three or four of these cycles: reflection, hike with a part, write about the part, introduce your field buddy to the part, meet in large group to further clarify, and plan an intention for the next hike. In addition, we plan to offer exercises such as externalizing a part by finding a token to represent it.
Our conclusion is that the IFS model and philosophy which support it are ideally suited to the military and veteran population if we can describe it in terms they can relate to.
Our conclusion is that the IFS model and philosophy which support it are ideally suited to the military and veteran population if we can describe it in terms they can relate to. We believe it is our responsibility to align our messaging to the military culture and, when we do, the IFS-guided experience will be well-received. We believe that our nature program should prove to be a step in that direction.
As was compellingly stated in the last issue of OUTLOOK, suicide rates among the military are relatively too high (and yes, one suicide is one too many!). Many of us have seen the positive effects of the IFS modality when working with suicidal parts. The best gift IFS could deliver to our military veterans is to help address this very issue head-on by understanding suicidal ideations as impulses carried by extreme parts that could be listened to and their pain unburdened. We hypothesize that IFS therapy has the capacity to increase psychological resilience and Self-energy; integrating IFS into military trainings and post combat-debriefings could help reduce suicidal risks—which is by itself another possible line of research to be pursued.
We hypothesize that IFS therapy has the capacity to increase psychological resilience and Self-energy; integrating IFS into military trainings and post combat-debriefings could help reduce suicidal risks—which is by itself another possible line of research to be pursued.
No one is under any illusion that this work is easy or fast or that it will reach the population of military veterans and active duty servicemembers to scale any time soon. Yet, we need to proceed steadily and serve as many individuals as we can, as often as we can, for as long as we can.
1 Promoting Psychological Resilience in the U.S. Military. Lisa S. Meredith et al. A Joint Endeavor of Rand Health and the Rand National Defense Research Institute (2011). As seen on www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG996.html (August 2021)
Toward Deeper Healing For Military Veterans & Servicemembers Affected by the Painful Traumas of War
Are you a member of one or more of these groups:
If so, the Foundation for Self Leadership invites you to join a growing IFS-for-veterans advocacy community and take part in programs, discussions, and activities of interest.
Start by becoming a friend of the Foundation and select “IFS for Veterans” as a program of relevance.
Opening panel discussions/town-hall conversations
“Making IFS Therapy Accessible
to Veterans & the MilitaryOPPORTUNITIES, CHALLENGES & ACTION”
Fridays, November 19,
December 3 and 17, 2021
2-4 pm Eastern US
Facing the Part I Thought Was Me
by Fatimah Finney, MA, LMHC and Assistant Trainer Mentee
“I don’t believe you.” I felt like a deer caught in the headlights. Instead of a car coming at me, it was a monumental existential crisis coming to split open the perfect sense of self I had subconsciously crafted. Let me set the scene.
I had recently finished a year-long IFS Level 1 training, where I learned about parts and Self-energy and the healing that could be experienced with a Self-led internal system. I had the six Fs down and knew more about some of my own parts and what they needed. (Editor’s note: the six Fs of the IFS model help locate and establish relationship with parts. They are: Find; Focus; Flesh out; Feel toward; beFriend; Fear.)
I was a believer. Before the end of the training, I had signed up for a weekend intensive on IFS and Yoga and had already started meeting with Level 1 peers for a monthly practice group. I was already doing very well “with this IFS thing” and was on my way to becoming a great IFS practitioner. Or so I thought.
During our practice group, we invited a more experienced IFS practitioner to lead the group to help us deepen our skills. I was a little nervous but mostly excited to work with this practitioner. How great would it be to say I’ve done work with this person? I was in the role of therapist and he was the client. I was ready. Find, Feel, Focus, Flesh, Befriend, Fear. I was ready to jump in and show what I knew. I was ready for this to be the demonstration in which he didn’t need to pause; instead, he would be so impressed with my skills.
But in the midst of me giving him my validating statements, he stopped and said, “I don’t believe you.” Those words were the first crack in the façade. The initial tremor foreshadowed a bigger impact to the system that was yet to come. Naturally, my protectors showed up with vengeance: Did he not know the positive remarks I had received from peers and even staff from my Level 1 training? Did he not hear how precise I was in going through the six Fs with him and how well I knew the flow of the Model? I had a great deal of respect and admiration for this man up until this very moment. Who did he think he was? My respectful parts spoke and said, “I don’t understand; I was following the Model. Did I do something wrong?” He replied, “I get what you’re doing, but it’s more than that. I don’t feel like you really get what I’m saying. I don’t feel like you care.”
I made it through the rest of the role play somehow, but something in me was different. I was unsettled. The part of me that worked so hard to do the right thing and to do it well was not enough. Worse still, she was not even necessary. The client needed the opposite of a curated therapeutic statement. He wanted real connection and could intuitively sense that my focus was not on him. And to be truthful: it was not! I was focused on doing well and looking good. And I always had. That’s when it hit me. I have always had an agenda, and only protectors have agendas. So, who was I really, if I spent the majority of my life in a part? It was painful and destabilizing to recognize that who I’ve known myself to be was in fact just a part of me. At the same time, something in me felt a sense of relief. There was a small sense of agreement and knowing that I did not understand. I had anxious parts show up. If he didn’t “believe” me, who else didn’t believe me? What else could other people see about me that I couldn’t?
And then it happened again; “I don’t believe you.” This time it was my husband responding to a text I sent him about looking forward to raising a family with him one day. This was the quake that forced me to take a look at myself. What was I doing wrong? Who am I really? And what does she want? Why are her words not aligning with her intentions?
These two instances happened almost two years ago and started me on a personal investigation of my parts. I have worked with, and continue to work with my biggest manager who I thought was “me” up until that moment. I have learned more about the parts that she protects and am working to get to know what she would rather be doing. As hard as it has been, the work of actually internalizing the Model and applying the Model to myself instead of using it as a tool for my clients has helped me in the way it was originally intended. I have no doubt that my manager took my Level 1 training. This time around though, as I show up as a program assistant for a Level 1 training, I am aware of the impact of getting to know this protector these last two years. She has allowed me to be the one who leads my system as I support others learning this Model for the first time. And for that shift, I am grateful.
Just as the introduction of IFS
group-based work will potentially allow
the IFS Model to be disseminated across
a broader terrain and reach more
people, so too will the introduction of
IFS into an electronic format. The recent
development of an IFS-specific app is
designed to integrate a cohesive toolkit
of IFS resources to support clients in
organizing and deepening their IFS work
in between sessions with their practitioners.
We meet the creators of this app
and discover some of the features of this
valuable adjunct to the IFS Model.
Sentur allows clients to
access support when they need
it most because, as we all know,
uncomfortable feelings don’t always
happen at convenient times.
As a therapist undergoing her own IFS therapy,
Sarah Houy, MA, LPC, had a passion for the Model
and found she was getting excellent results with her
therapist in sessions, but was then frustrated with
the disjointed process of trying to extend her work
beyond the therapeutic hour. Whether mapping
parts, trying to source meditations or looking for
additional resources, Sarah found the disintegrated
nature of needing to work across different devices
inefficient and time-consuming, as was leaving sticky
notes and reminders for herself to check in with
parts and explore her trailheads. As a self-confessed
“student at heart,” Sarah chose to see her frustration
as a challenge and got to work developing an IFS
app to address the problem. With some timely
intervention from IFS Institute, Sarah was introduced
to her project cofounder Faris Sweis, BSc, who lives
in Bulgaria. With his background in software engineering
and their combined entrepreneurial flair,
the pair has collaborated over the last three years to
create an app designed to integrate expertise from
leaders in the IFS field and help clients more easily
progress their own work as well as connect
to practitioners and resources in the IFS community.
Known as Sentur (Sentur is the Bulgarian translation
of the English word “center”), the app developed by
Sarah and Faris has a number of features that allow
the user to explore and deepen their IFS experience.
For example, Sentur integrates the clients' work in
their journey of self-transformation and locates it
in one handy place on their phone or other device.
The unique journaling function features guided
check-ins and customized reminders, which allow
users to track their trailheads and parts, thus deepening
and facilitating the relationship between them.
The app also provides a visual representation of the
client’s inner world with an IFS-specific mapping
feature, which facilitates ongoing contact with parts
after they have been unburdened. As Sarah says,
“Invoking the Self-energy of unburdened parts is
very efficient and, in some ways, the unburdening
process is just the start of the journey.” The app
allows clients to visually see which resources
(unburdened parts, guides, etc.) on their inner
team are available to support them when they
go into challenging situations or to set intentions
for the day.
Sentur allows the client to access support when
they need it most because, as we all know, uncomfortable
feelings don’t always happen at convenient
times. The app features a guided workflow, which
allows app users to take an initial assessment of their
access to Self-energy, walks them through how to
find and focus on what is happening in that challenging
moment, and gives them a customized tagging
system to capture what they are noticing through
the lens of IFS while also tagging other parts that are activated. Links can then be made to existing trailheads, or a new trailhead can be created with the app, offering the option to set a reminder to come back at a later time to check in and see how the relevant parts are doing. At the end of this process, the user is directed to reassess their level of Self-energy relative to when they started the check-in. Self-energy can also be tracked over a period of months or years, which provides a comparison point to baseline with Sentur’s activity tracker providing a clear picture of weekly goals and monitoring progress over time. Finally, there are links to guided audio meditations for increasing access to Self-energy from some of the leading IFS contributors in the community, such as Michelle Glass, CIFSP; Susan McConnell, MA;
and Mariel Pastor, MA.
“...barriers such as
geographical location, access to a practitioner and restricted finances can potentially be
Sarah and Faris’s tagline for Sentur is “Everyone
deserves to heal.” They created the app because they believe the transformative capacity of IFS
could be combined with technology to take
healing to places that traditional methods have not been able to access. For example, barriers such as geographical location, access to a practitioner and restricted finances can potentially be transcended using the app. Sarah says, “We know this tool is helpful to those in IFS therapy, and we are excited
to continue to partner with organizations in
underserved populations to see how it can
support their vision of change and healing in
the world.” Costing less than an average single therapy session, a one-year subscription offers either an adjunct to those in therapy and/or a
resource for those who cannot afford therapy.
Sentur was released on Apple in March 2021 and is due for release as an Android app in the near future. Upgrades will continue, as with all apps. In November, subscribers will find some of the tools of Michelle Glass’s Daily Parts Meditation Practice™ incorporated into the app to facilitate deeper integration of IFS sessions, with more to follow in upcoming months. Sarah can be contacted at: email@example.com. __SD
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by Joanna Curry-Sartori, LMFT;
Founder of Self-Leadership Collaborative
Even amidst the global pandemic and one of the
most difficult years known to schools, educators in
Connecticut steadfastly gathered to continue their
efforts to connect with their own Self, to nurture
their own parts, and to provide warm, wise company
for each other. This sanctuary for authentic self-care
was constructed from the wisdom and practices
inspired by IFS and was guided by Self-Leadership
Collaborative. Through this work, educators learned
that they have extraordinary inner resources and the innate capacity
to be calm, curious, compassionate, and courageous. They tasted the
possibility of seeing themselves and others as a constellation of wellintentioned
parts. They glimpsed the power of speaking for parts and
listening from Self. And in this, they forged a space to connect more
deeply and show up more wholly for the continuous string of changes
and challenges they had to navigate daily.
Here is an overview of the program
implemented in Regional School
District 13, Durham Connecticut
and A.I Prince Technical High
School in Hartford, Connecticut
during the 2021-2022 school year:
ALL STAFF participated in facilitated small
group discussions following the P.A.U.S.E.
model, a simple process to access and listen
from Self while speaking for parts. In this
format, staff explored and expressed their
experience of teaching during the pandemic
and also shared their best practices
connecting and engaging students.
Additionally, staff received periodic
“nuggets”—emails offering reflections,
guided practice, and tips to implement
IFS tools in their school role.
AMBASSADORS: Following last year’s
efforts, small cohorts of ambassadors
continued to meet and deepen their own
practice of Self leadership while expanding
their efforts to lead school-wide integration
of IFS practices in everyday relationships,
classroom learning, and whole school
climate. Ambassadors worked closely
consulting with me to discover the relevant
and practical ways to apply the Model in the
constantly shifting landscape of a school
amidst the pandemic.
“... we’ve got to be able to lead
ourselves and to be in control
of the different parts of us, and
to recognize and, like you say,
not react from our parts and
be able to know that that’s just
a part and be able to be the
leader of those parts.”
LEADERSHIP: All school principals participated
in two or more workshops to learn
the core skills to access Self and relate to
their parts as relevant to their role as school
leaders. They also engaged in periodic
consulting to assess the progress in applying
the Model to their community and adapting
to changing needs.
STUDENTS: Staff, especially ambassadors,
discovered multiple simple ways to bring
the experience of Self leadership to their
students through explicit practices and
implicit daily interactions.
This year was not easy; yet, from what has
been observed, Self leadership seemed to
have made it possible for participants to gain
resilience, to hold self-compassion, and to
be present with others through their
often-difficult journeys. Many educators
shared “aha” moments when they experienced
a shift within and a change in how
they could see and relate to themselves,
appreciating that this was a game changer
for how they would relate to others.
One teacher shared: I remember figuring
out why it was called Self leadership. I’m,
like, “What does that mean?” And then when
I understood, I’m like, “Ah, that makes so
much sense!” (I understood that) if we are
leaders, which we are as teachers, we’ve
got to be able to lead ourselves and to be
in control of the different parts of us, and to
recognize and, like you say, not to react from
our parts and be able to know that that’s
just a part and be able to be the leader of
Teachers, seeing the needs of their students,
also quickly and creatively explored how to
translate what they were learning to benefit
their students. Some devised ways to check
in with each student at the door, others
guided mindfulness activities to nurture more
Self-energy in the classroom, while others led
group discussions for students to recognize
and speak for their parts and know they
were not alone.
Another teacher offered this observation: My first
graders have had more of an ability to identify their
feelings this year and tell me first thing in the morning
or throughout the day that they need a break or
maybe a breathing moment or something that we
can do together as a class.
The anecdotes are many, the benefits are real. This
year, we were fortunate to have a program evaluation
thanks to a generous grant from the Foundation for
Self Leadership. The results were significant
The Self-Led Collaborative’s efforts
at schools in Connecticut were made
possible through two-year funding
from the Foundation for Self Leadership.
This Program represents the Foundation’s
second funded project attempting
to introduce elements of the IFS
Model in schools. Aside from funding
the Program and its evaluation, the
grant facilitated the development
by Joanna Curry-Sartori, LMFT,
of a curricular framework and related
resources that are in review and being
planned for publication.
The Foundation has recently engaged an
advisory council to help identify next steps
in its efforts to expand the presence of
Self leadership programming in schools.
The Foundation is grateful for the active
engagement of this council’s members:
Sady Kim-Singh, MSW, LCSW, Board Member
& Convener; Eugenia (Kena) Acuña, restorative
justice consultant; Barbara Adams, MA, former
school principal; Ralph Cohen, PhD, IFS Lead
Trainer and Professor of Counselor Education
and Family Therapy in the College of Education
at Central Connecticut State University; Rodger
Goddard, PhD, Lead Psychologist at Trinitas
Medical Center, NJ, and author of IFS for
Teachers’ Manual; Carmen Jimenez-Pride,
LCSW, LICSW-CP, Play Therapist Practitioner
& Supervisor; Jennifer Krizan, LMFT, LICSW,
School Counselor; and Kathryn Serino, EdD,
former superintendent. Executive Director
Toufic Hakim, PhD, serves as staff to the Council.
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by Jayne Smith, PhD, LPCC; Founding Lead Evaluator,
Mental Health Education Group
Launching a new program including an external
evaluator in an existing school setting is challenging in
the best of times. Despite all that occurred in society
(e.g., pandemic, presidential election, murder of George
Floyd, protests, etc.) which could have compromised
this effort and its evaluation, we found the Self-Leadership
Collaborative (SLC) School Program has great
promise in fostering social-emotional wellness and
promoting shifts towards Self leadership “in the
building” for school staff and students.
Before jumping too much into the
findings, I will share a bit about what we set out to do. This program evaluation was a pilot following a small-scale evaluation attempt the previous year, in the throes of COVID. I engaged during the second year of implementation in schools. The SLC School program was under development, which included a need to design and test relevant data collection instruments. As the lead
external, independent evaluator, I read and listened to stakeholders in order to design an accurate, robust, and specific program logic model to answer two overarching evaluation questions:
What aspects of the SLC School Program were most and least helpful in terms of building staff
and student capacity to be “Self-led”?
In what ways were school staff and students
impacted by the SLC School Program?
METHODOLOGY. I used an “implementation evaluation” design, as opposed to randomized-controlled, because the program sought to clarify best practices and refine student, staff, and school-wide outcomes. Once these questions are answered and tested again for further refinement, the SLC School Program will be ready for a more rigorous evaluation design.
Five instruments were created to collect data that informed the findings about (1) change in stress; (2) shift towards Self leadership; (3) skills practice alone and with students; (4) change in knowledge about the actual program; and (5) perceived impact on students and classrooms. Data were collected via Google Forms and Zoom and stored in a secure Google Drive. Findings were based on 335 online survey responses and 229 data points from 17 focus group participants. I anonymized all data prior to analysis and reporting. Quantitative data analysis included reliability testing, descriptive statistics, independent t-tests, and effect size calculations. Qualitative data analysis was based on Consensual Qualitative Research.
WHAT ASPECTS WERE MOST HELPFUL?
Regarding the immersive experience for school
staff in the SLC Schools Program, sixty-four
percent (64%) of focus group data points about helpful factors referred to the power of the summer institutes and need for consistent, frequent learning
opportunities facilitated by IFS experts to gain
traction in the buildings. Further, 45% of data
points about recommendations for continued
program development emphasized the importance of being offered a variety of learning opportunities from which they could self-select.
They were more likely to have deeper knowledge about IFS,
practice skills by themselves
and with students outside of
SLC School Program activities,
and reported better overall
social-emotional and student/classroom outcomes...
Quantitative data supported these qualitative
findings. When compared to “low-dose” groups (n=77), participants who engaged in four or more SLC School Program activities (n=39) showed statistically significant results in all outcome measures. They were more likely to have deeper knowledge about IFS (t(114)=-3.52, p<.001), practice skills
by themselves and with students outside of SLC School Program activities (t(52)=-3.61, p<.001 and t(50)=-2.61, p<.05, respectively), and reported better overall social-emotional and student/classroom
outcomes (t(104)=-2.31, p<.05 and t(105)=-2.09, p<.05, respectively).
Ambassadors (n=12)—members of the school
staff who engaged in the most frequent SLC
School Program activities (i.e., “highest dose” group)—had high effective sizes in knowledge gained (t(12)=-8.24, p<.001, d=.92), practicing
skills alone (t(12)=-4.38, p<.001, d=.78) and shifting toward Self leadership (t(12)=-6.08, p<.001, d=.87). Cohen (1965) suggested that effect sizes (d) equal to or above .80 are high (see next page about effect size). Behavior change takes time and sustained support for any program. The SLC School Program achieved this change with Ambassadors’ daily use
of P.A.U.S.E. skills (see next page) indicating an
“in the building” shift towards Self leadership.
WHAT IS EFFECT SIZE? Simply put, if two social-emotional learning programs showed statistically significant results, which would be better? Effect size could show that one program increased a student’s ability to self-regulate by 2 points (small effect size) and the other by 8 points (a large effect size). School leaders and funders may be interested in planning for school staff to engage in an SLC School Program immersion followed by regular, frequent follow-up learning opportunities facilitated by IFS experts.
PAUSE (mindfulness, self-regulation):
Ask: Am I my best Self right now?
Step back, breathe, focus on one of the 8 Cs: Calm, compassion,
curiosity, connection, clarity, creativity, courage, confidence.
AWARE of myself (self-awareness, emotional intelligence):
Ask: Where am I coming from?
Notice parts of you showing up as thoughts, feelings,
and sensations. Appreciate your positive intent and need.
UNDERSTAND each other (relationship skills, social intelligence):
Ask: What’s the other person’s perspective and needs?
Listen from Self to understand the other person and
their parts. Speak for your parts not from your parts.
SEARCH for Solutions (decision-making, ethical intelligence):
Ask: What is in our power?
Consider what needs attention.Brainstorm what will be for the good of all.
EXPERIMENT (responsible action):
Ask: What shall we try? What’s our best next step?
Take purposeful action to benefit your community.
Be creative as you explore new ways to interact and respond.
Reflect on the results and acknowledge growth.
© Copyright 2021 Self-Leadership Collaborative, LLC, Joanna Curry-Sartori, LMFT
All rights reserved. Proper attribution expected if used; permission is requested for
usage. Please write Joanna at firstname.lastname@example.org
WHAT NEEDS IMPROVEMENT? Myriad IFS-resources were developed and shared with school staff; yet they were not used consistently by staff. Fifty-one percent (51%) of focus group data points encouraged the development of a “Roadmap to Self Leadership” with established expectations for staff training and guidelines for implementation of SLC School Program resources. They also emphasized that resources need to take into consideration student cognitive and social development to be relevant to each grade level.
WHAT WERE OTHER SLC PROGRAM OUTCOMES?School staff reported less stress or no change in stress level and mild-to-moderate shifts towards
Self leadership immediately following an SLC
School Program activity and at the end of the
year, which means these changes and shifts were sustained. School staff practiced P.A.U.S.E. Model skills such as taking a pause, breathing practices, listening from Self, unblending, and befriending.
Staff members who attended four or more SLC School Program activities were more likely to
practice these skills by themselves or with
students between one and four times per week.
School staff reported being:
Based on the findings of this program evaluation, my recommendation is to continue methodically strengthening the SLC School Program framework,
resources, learning opportunities,
and evaluation tools so that, in the
not-so-distant future, full-school
immersion approaches may be in place and criteria established for designating
a classroom, school, or district as
“Self-Led.” As another focus group
participant stated “It is the way we
are. We are a Self-led district.”
This quote from one focus
group participant brings to life
the ways in which school staff
and students were inspired
by the SLC School Program.
“I have a better relationship with my students.
I mean, just to boil it all down, when I started here, I was very strict. ‘Hey, guys, it’s time to work on this!’ And a student is on his phone. That was personally offensive to me. And then we go talk in the hall. ‘You’re wrecking my theory and you ruin this for everybody.’ Back when we had a planning room, I had a lot of kids out all the time. I gave out a lot of detentions. I was butting heads with my students a lot. I had my students who were well-behaved, who were here to learn, and I didn’t have a problem with them. But I would end up with a whole bunch of students who I butted heads with all year. I never really built
a relationship with them.
“Now, I feel like I have so many more tools to be able to address these issues. This kid is not a bad kid. He’s not giving me a hard time because he’s a bad kid, there’s something going on there. Maybe I don’t need to hover over him right now. Maybe I need to take a step back, center myself, make a game plan about how I can relate to what his problems are. Then I can address it in a way that is not confrontational, in a way that might make that student open up about what is going on—their parents just got divorced or they just got kicked out of their house. And I’m just tired. That’s not a reason for me to kick them out of my classroom. We’ve built a relationship and now maybe they won’t come up to my standard of behavior, but it’s not necessarily all about that. Now I can teach them what I need to teach them, whereas before I couldn’t even teach them.”
What do our schools look like when school adults
tap into their core Self to connect with students?
How can Self leadership be uncovered in our
schools or greater well-being and optimal potential?
The Foundation is pleased to present a three-part
Foundation Forum on introducing and disseminating
IFS in our schools—nurturing the awareness and language
of parts and Self in school communities as well as
supporting educators in fulfilling their responsibilities.
Please reserve your calendars for three Saturdays
in early 2022 and be on the lookout for more details
about panelists and how to register…
All sessions are interactive and practical; they involve individual
presentations, panel discussions and participant activities.
Three Saturdays from 10 am to 12 pm (Eastern US | UTC-5)
January 8, 2022 - Be inspired by the outcomes of the
Connecticut-schools initiative and experience the P.A.U.S.E Model*
for accessing Self leadership in daily interactions (panelists include
IFS-trained program director, schoolteachers, and lead administrators)
January 22, 2022 - Explore how IFS can be adapted into various
school classrooms and complement related frameworks, from Values-based
Education to Restorative Practices (panelists are IFS-trained
practitioners who are pioneering such efforts in several countries)
February 5, 2022 - Join a global, cross-cultural movement of
IFS practitioners leading innovative ways to cultivate qualities of Self
in schools (panelists are mental health professionals introducing IFS
to schools in the US and various parts of the world)
(*) The IFS-inspired P.A.U.S.E Model is developed by Joanna Curry-Sartori, LMFT, founder of the Self-Leadership Collaborative,
to integrate IFS-based skills. She has used it consistently in her workshops and programs with school educators and administrators
to integrate IFS-based skills in school communities.
Inside the One Inside
A multitude of resources are available for people curious
about—and avid learners of—the Model. In addition to official
IFS Institute trainings, books, workshops, and videos, one such avenue is the podcast. In April of 2019, certified IFS therapist Tammy Sollenberger, LCMHC, launched The One Inside: An
Internal Family Systems Podcast, with the intention of making IFS more accessible to the general public. Aware of the amazing ways in which various people are using the Model, she wanted to showcase these individuals and the gifts they bring to the world. It was her hope that listeners’ own creativity and motivation would be sparked in how they might use the Model for
themselves or their clients by feeling like they were pulling
up a chair to observe a conversation about IFS through
hearing these conversations.
Often these conversations allow for activation
of our own parts and new trailheads, as they relate
to the content or persons in the interviews. In this
way, podcasts offer the opportunity for collective
transformation or community healing. As listeners
witness and feel connected to the conversation,
they may not feel as alone whether feeling aligned
to or polarized against the content. Listeners may
then bring these pieces to therapy for more unburdening,
transformation, and ultimately more
wholeness. “Collective healing comes from being in
community with other people and hearing Self-led
conversations,” Tammy asserts. “I want listeners to
hear the heart-to-heart of the conversations and
walk away with feeling ‘that was healing for me
or felt good.’”
The 100th episode featuring founder of the
Model, Richard Schwartz, PhD, about his new book
No Bad Parts, and in which Dick led Tammy through
an unburdening, was aired a few months ago in July.
It was a huge milestone for the program. In the
last two and a half years, IFS trainers, authors,
therapists, and practitioners, along with New York
Times best-selling author and spiritual leader
Gabrielle Bernstein, have shared with listeners their
unique focuses to help us all understand ourselves
and the Model in both concrete and nuanced
ways. She aspires to add dialogues with Toni
Herbine-Blank, RN, MS, CS-P, and Michi Rose, PhD,
LMSW, among others, in the not too distant future.
To date, there have been over 200,000 downloads
of the podcasts, by countless listeners.
After Tammy completed her L1 training and became
a program assistant, and after subsequently having
presented at the annual IFS conference, her natural
curiosity wondered in what way she could propagate
the seeds of IFS. She recalls, “I love IFS and I wanted
to get it and mental health concepts into the hands
of more people.” When her son was younger, many
of the friends in her mom group were educated and
professional, and found podcasts to be an easy way
to learn, connect, and feel supported. Since she had
studied broadcasting in school, the medium made
the most sense and she knew several local friends
who were podcasting who were happy to show
her the ropes.
Through the podcast, she has enjoyed getting
to know so many people in the IFS community.
In addition, she ultimately feels close to her interviewees
and has formed friendships with some.
While her primary focus is her full-time practice,
The One Inside takes more than ten hours a week
to produce. Tammy looks forward to bringing you
the third season filled with many more interviews
to pique your curiosity and provide new trailheads
for you. Additionally, she has authored the book,
The One Inside: 30 Days to Your Authentic Self,
which will be available later this fall. The program
can be found here or on her YouTube Channel.
To reach Tammy, you can do so at
Foundation Seeks New Magazine Editor
Connecting, engaging, and growing
the IFS community. Your Foundation
for Self Leadership publishes OUTLOOK,
a semi-annual magazine which showcases
developments around the paradigm
and practice of IFS, to these ends.
The Foundation now seeks an Editor
to guide the magazine, in its sixth year
of publication, into the next phase.
The Editor will contribute to strategy
that advances the mission, produce
compelling content, leverage technology,
and collaborate on integrating the
magazine into a comprehensive
For more information
visit our website.
Imagine with Us
In a world that seems to be crumbling…
When our human fabric seems to be breaking at the seams,
And open cracks swallow the light of optimism and hopefulness,
Some will pray (may their prayers be heeded!);
Some may breathe-in the strain and tension
and breathe-out release and stillness;
Some may even sit and watch,
Dry tears on their cheeks,
helpless hands locked overhead in surrender;
Yet, others will run over
with all the thread and needles to be found
And stitch, and stitch, and stitch.
When communities draw deep lines of demarcation,
And factions stand firm in their corners,
stuck in their spaces, unyielding, immobile,
Some will join one side or the other, by conviction or for survival;
Some may stand in between,
screaming at both sides in frustration or indignation;
Some may even try, in vain,
To find a way out, go far away from it all, and never look back;
Yet, others will shuttle back and forth, from one faction to the other
And listen, and listen, and listen.
When foes, inside and out, wave their threatening swords,
Beat their drums of battle
and yell their rallying cries from the top of their lungs,
Some will raise their arms and march in unison;
Some may run in their circles unsure how to react;
Some may even hide, in the brush or deep underground,
Hearts pounding, their skin cold and blue,
their eyes wide open;
Yet, others will rush to all those in need,
with the certainty of light in their steps,
And serve, and serve, and serve.
The IFS community and the
Foundation have made their choice…
in service to healing and humanity,
with commitment to ensuring societal
harmony and wellbeing, determined to
awaken Self wherever it may lie under
the rubble of collective human decisions
And all worth it, it will be.
Imagine with us the possibilities of
our collective efforts together.