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Parts Work Therapy: What it is and why you may want to try it

You may have heard of Parts Work Therapy, sometimes also referred to by one particular style, called Internal Family Systems (IFS). This therapeutic model comes from the belief that each of us contains a many inner selves or "parts," each with its own beliefs, emotions, and roles. In this blog, we will explore the concept of Parts Work Therapy, its significance, and how it can lead to profound healing and self-acceptance.

Understanding Parts Work Therapy

Parts Work Therapy, also known as Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, is rooted in the idea that our minds are composed of various "parts" that represent different aspects of our personality and experiences. These parts can be thought of as inner selves, each with a unique role or function in our life.

Think of it this way: have you ever been on the couch, relaxing and you remember that you’re supposed to go put the laundry away, but then you groan internally because you just don’t want to? In this scenario, you have a part of you that wants to keep the house clean and a different part that wants to relax. 

If we take it up a notch, you can imagine how our parts may play a role after a traumatic experience. You may have one part that is super anxious and on guard, always looking for the next trauma, while another part of you may be reminding you that you are safe now and the threat is over. 

A picture made up of 16 pictures of the same person, in which they are experiencing a variety of various emotions

Key Principles of Parts Work Therapy:

1. Multiplicity of the Self: Parts Work recognizes that our inner world is not singular but composed of a multitude of parts, each playing a distinct role. In Parts work, we come from the belief that all parts are always trying to keep as us safe and happy as possible, even when it doesn’t feel that way. In Part Work, the goal is not to get rid of the parts (we can’t do that!) but rather to help the parts come out at times that serve us best, rather than whenever they way.

2. Harmony and Conflict: These parts can work together harmoniously, but they can also be in conflict with one another. The conflicts can lead to emotional distress and psychological challenges.

3. The Self: At the core of Parts Work Therapy is the concept of the "Self." The Self represents the core of our being, often described as a calm, compassionate, and wise center. The goal of therapy is to help individuals connect with this Self, and have it as the primary guide in our life, rather than other parts. 

An Analogy

A simple analogy to understand parts work is a bus filled with all the varying parts of you. These parts are like people on the bus, with all the different ages we have ever been, and all the emotions we experience. 

In Parts Work, our goal is to help Self be the driver of the bus, and have other parts of us offer advice or guidance to the Self, when needed.

The Significance of Parts Work Therapy

Parts Work Therapy offers several significant benefits:

1. Self-Discovery: Most people think in parts work fairly often; have you ever heard yourself saying “part of me wants to go out to night, and part of me wants to stay home”? This is parts work at play! When we use Parts Work intentionally, we can gather a deeper understanding of ourselves and our needs. 

2. Emotional Regulation: Parts Work Therapy can help individuals regulate their emotions by understanding and addressing the different parts' concerns and needs.

Imagine this: a part of you pops up and tells you to do something. Rather than just doing it, Parts Work can help you explore why this part of you wants to act in this way, and if it ultimately makes sense for you to do it or not. Parts Work allow conversations to happen in ways they may other wise not.  

3. Resolving Inner Conflicts: By identifying and addressing conflict between parts, Parts Work can help our parts come together and find a solution that works for everyone.

4. Improved Self-Compassion: Parts Work Therapy encourages self-compassion by allowin a deeper understanding of your experiences, as well as access to your Self, which is a calm, curious and compassionate place.

5. Empowerment: It empowers people with tools to engage with their inner selves, heal past wounds and trauma, and move forward in a more self-aware and self-accepting manner.

How Parts Work Therapy Works

In a Parts Work Therapy session, the therapist guides individuals through a process of identifying what part needs to be worked with first, and then interacting with that part in a healing way. While each session will of course be unique, here's what a typical session may look like:

1. Identification: The therapist helps the individual identify the part that you would like to work with and learn about it. For example, a person may have an "Inner Critic," a "Wounded Child," or a “Caretaker." In this stage, you’ll learn why that part has the role it does, and where that role came from. 

2. Dialogue: Next, your therapist will guide you to interact with the part. You'll explore the concerns, emotions, and motivations of each part. This can be done through visualization, journaling, or verbal communication.

3. Processing: By moving in to the emotions and experiences of the part, you’ll be able to process the situations that led the part to hold the role it does. In doing so, the part often learns it no longer needs to serve a particular role in your life. This part of the process may take multiple sessions, especially if the part experienced a traumatic situation.

4. Integration When our parts learn they no longer have to serve old roles, it frees up energy to be used for other things. When we are intentional about what we would like to use the energy for, we create the life we are wanting. 

Parts Work Therapy provides a unique and powerful path to healing and self-acceptance. By acknowledging and working with the diverse aspects of our inner world, we often move towards a place of compassion and insight. 

If you're interested in exploring Parts Work Therapy a number of counsellors on our team are trained in providing parts work therapy. Reach out today to get matched with a counsellor! 


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