Frequently Asked Questions
The following are drawn from the common inquiries we get about Internal Family Systems Therapy and Intimacy From the Inside Out. It's our hope these brief responses will provide the information you are looking for and inspire you to find out more about our relational work.
IFIO is a powerful model that addresses any issue people face in relationships. These include problems with communication, tensions between togetherness and separateness, difficulties with accepting each other’s differences, conflict over decisions, feeling misunderstood or unloved, heated fights, intimacy and sexuality concerns, frustration that the other person isn’t changing, disrespected boundaries, challenges with addictive behaviors, relationship ruptures, and betrayals.
The IFIO therapist pays careful attention to the repetitive patterns that block beneficial communication and helps each person develop internal understanding of remaining calm and clear while staying in good connection with the other person.
Yes. Relational trauma refers to the psychological, physical, and spiritual effects of abuses, enmeshments, and neglect that occurred during a person’s early developmental years or to traumas that occurred more recently within the context of a contemporary relationship.
IFIO is an excellent modality for helping people heal from both kinds of traumas. In IFIO this can happen once each person has unblended enough, so that the partners feel safe and can trust one another. Then, one partner is a compassionate witness while the IFIO therapist uses IFS to guide the other partner in deep internal exploration to appreciate long-standing protective strategies and to unburden core negative beliefs, shames, and painful sensations absorbed from past traumas. If the trauma(s) occurred in the couple’s relationship, the therapist also helps partners apologize and forgive each other in order to repair relational ruptures.
Everyone! The world would be a much better place!
The IFIO training is designed primarily for therapists who work with couples. However, as IFIO teaches fundamental relational skills, anyone in a relationship will benefit from the training whether or not one is a couple therapist. IFIO is the application of IFS to couples.
By Relationship Therapy we mean a therapeutic process that both focuses on the needs of each individual but also on the needs of the relationship. This is accomplished by tracking patterns of interaction that both enhance and interfere with the hopes and desires of each individual as well as supporting the foundation of the relationship which then also supports the individuals in it.
Every therapeutic intervention is designed and implemented in service of strengthening the relationship, which will increase the functioning of the individuals, which will in turn build the relationship. This circular process does not emphasize causality but rather the interrelatedness of the individuals and the system they comprise.
This is a skill we help couples develop which allows them each to speak in a manner that has the best chance of being heard and understood, and to listen in a manner that allows for a clearer understanding of one’s partner.
This skill is mastered as each member of the couple first checks within themselves for concerns about speaking and/or listening and provides the necessary help for those concerns. Regular practice of this skill is instrumental in helping couples listen with an open heart and respond to each other’s needs.
FIO is an experiential model of couple therapy that integrates the interpersonal with the intrapersonal. Unlike other models, individuals work to reconnect with each other but at the same time they are working with their own system to heal trauma(s) from past relationships (especially family of origin). In summary, there are two levels of process: (1) Healing and reconnecting between the couple; and (2) Internal healing of each individual as they do internal work to heal vulnerabilities within.
IFIO is based an the Internal Family Systems model of psychotherapy that embraces multiplicity of mind. The multiplicity of “parts” include aspects of the individual that protect and that are vulnerable. Communication roadblocks come when couples are not consciously aware of their vulnerabilities or needs and communicate from their protective parts.
Couples are attempting to get their needs met by manipulating, bullying, withdrawing, or other protective behavior that trigger their partner’s vulnerable “parts” and then their partner communicates back from a protective stance as well. This communication pattern (protector to protector) leads couples down a path of disconnection and pain, as they are not able to connect from their vulnerability.
IFIO defines healthy relationships as those whose partners can stay regulated and connected while having difficult conversations, are able to work together to meet each other’s needs, and are able to make heartfelt and meaningful repairs when necessary.
The benefits of understanding the neuroscience of relationships is two-fold. First, in IFIO we’re working to help partners learn to un-blend, speak for parts, and listen from Self. We also work to help them self-soothe to stay regulated and connected, and learn to co-regulate as a couple. Clients rarely come to therapy able to do these things well. Understanding the neurobiology behind these processes helps professionals assess the level of neurobiological functioning of each partner and provides us with a road map to help guide couples toward healthy relational functioning.
Second, having the skill to help partners learn to pay attention to their own nervous systems while interacting with each other can help them identify when they are becoming dysregulated and gives them tools to work back toward optimal nervous system regulation and ultimately co-regulation.
IFIO offers couple therapists a blueprint for helping partners become securely connected to themselves so they can safely be in relationship to the other. The model steps away from content and, instead focuses on helping couples process their conflict successfully. In short IFIO guides each partner to bring healing inside so they can be less reactive and more empathic to their partner.
The IFIO therapist supports each individual in a couple differentiate from their protectors, understand their vulnerability and their emotional needs (that are obscured by defense). We teach couples to understand the nature of their repetitive fights, communicate differently, heal inevitable ruptures and envision a new, more satisfying relationship.
The IFS model of psychotherapy holds the belief that we all have a core resource within, something we call Self, or Self energy. This resource consists of qualities like compassion, curiosity, calmness and clarity. Part of the work in therapy is to reconnect with this core energy as a primary source of healing the parts of us that have been wounded or are holding painful experiences/feelings.
This Self to part connection is the primary source of healing. Relationships then are freed up to become a secondary source of healing. Other models of couple therapy hold that healing comes primarily from the external resource of the other with whom we are in relationship. In IFIO we help individuals access this inner source of Self to heal old wounds and unburden the internalized beliefs that wounded parts take on about themselves. This allows the individual to return to the relationship from a more centered place from which to negotiate the necessary discussions all people in relationship must have.
In IFIO when we refer to intimate connection, essentially we are talking about the experience of being seen and seeing another fully and accurately; vulnerabilities, strengths and limitations. “Can I be fully myself and still be loved by you?”