At the end of last year, I took an amazing training on Trauma work. We have to do 36 hours of continuing education every two years so I take a fair amount of training. But many don’t feel like they give me information I can use in my practice. This training did and also got me super energized about my work. I decided to get my EMDR certification and am now in the supervision I need to make that happen.

A big part of what transformed me from this training was the idea of parts work. Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS) is a theory about each of us having many different parts. We also have a self. We are in self when we are able to access any of the 8 C’s. They are calmness, curiosity, clarity, compassion, confidence, creativity, courage, and connectedness.

When we are not in Self we are being run by a part. There are two types of parts; the protectors and the exiles. The exiles are the parts of us that hold our pain and wounds. The protectors are trying to protect us and others from accessing the exiles parts. There are two types of protectors the managers and the firefighters. The managers work hard to keep everyone away from the exiles. The firefighters have a big reaction if someone touches an exile part. This could manifest in suicidal ideation or substance abuse or another type of big reaction.

So this explanation can sound a bit crazy. People often worry when therapists talk about parts that they mean someone has Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder). It does not. It means we are complex people with many parts of us. Many of us have some of the following parts: anxious, perfectionist, depressed, and want to be liked. Identifying these aspects of our personality as parts rather than who we are is actually rather freeing. Try it next time you have a big reaction. Label the reaction with a part name and say wow my anxious part is really acting up right now. This creates some separation. you don’t feel like you are anxiety as a person but instead someone with an anxious part.

I have brought this concept into my practice and for the most part, people really enjoy the concept and working with these terms.

Some resources on trauma and parts work are found below.

An Introduction to IFS from Good Therapy

The Center for Self Leadership-this is the organization run by the founders of IFS

Trauma Recovery Tools-a great user-friendly book on the effects of trauma that talks some about parts work.

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