Somatic Internal Family Systems (Somatic IFS)

Somatic IFS is an evidence-based non-pathologising therapy model which sees the psyche as made up of a core Self and separate parts – like an internal family. These parts can be wounded young parts or can be parts holding protective or managing roles, such as caretaking or people-pleasing. By exploring this internal world and seeing how all these parts interrelate can help people see the roots of their dysfunctional behaviours or symptoms. The aim of treatment is to establish a healthy and harmonious internal system with the Self in the driving seat. Treatment involves working with body sensations, such as pain, warmth, tingling or tension, to explore the parts that may be holding prior unexpressed emotions hidden in the body tissues and experienced as body sensations. Somatic IFS does not focus on talking about trauma and does not necessarily involve touch, but pays attention and listens to the body sensations moment-to-moment.

An example of treatment for chronic pain with Somatic IFS

You may have had chronic headaches and shoulder pain on and off for years. You always put it down to poor posture at work. However, this episode had appeared after you had changed jobs, and there was no obvious reason for it starting. At the same time, you had also been struggling with an attack of irritable bowel syndrome. The only time the headaches subside is when you are enjoying your dancing class. Curiously, this episode coincided with a visit from your estranged father. We explored this connection with somatic IFS by tracking the pain sensations. This uncovered a young part holding fear and unexpressed anger around the father relationship. It was seen that the previous boss had triggered some of this old fear too. By acknowledging the body’s attempt to shield you from these difficult feelings with pain, and allowing the wounded part to express the feelings in a safe and gentle way, the headaches and shoulder tension reduced. We discussed ways to continue the integration and processing of these feelings at home.