What is Parts Work

Parts Work – officially known as Internal Family Systems or IFS – is an evidence-based approach to psychotherapy that's been adapted for coaching. It was developed nearly 30 years ago by Richard Schwartz, LMFT and Harvard faculty member.


At our core we are all whole and undamaged. But events in childhood and adolescence limits our access to this perfect part of ourselves. 


IFS view our inner-world as a system made up of a Self – the unique individual we are at our core; and protector parts – an inner-defense system developed in childhood and early-adolescence in response to experiences that caused pain, shame, grief, fear or rejection. These can include common occurrences like being yelled at or bullied, to trauma and abuse.

Parts in Action​

Here are some examples of our protector parts:

  • JUDGE: Criticizes others to bolster our self-image

  • WORRIER: Anticipates what can go wrong to avoid being caught off-guard 

  • CARETAKER: Drives us to put others' needs above ours to increase our value in their lives and avoid being abandoned

  • PERFECTIONIST: Pushes us to keep working at something until it is flawless to avoid looking bad or being judged

  • INDULGER: Drives us to over-eat, drink to excess, or engage in risky activities to avoid feeling pain

  • INNER-CRITIC: Tells us we're not good enough (or some other criticism) to protects us from failure, humiliation and abandonment

These are just some of the many protector parts and how they can behave. It is normal. But parts can become extreme, and when they do, they prevent us from trusting in ourselves or others, from living in the moment, and from accessing our intuition and inner-wisdom.

Who is this Work Appropriate for?

Parts work increases our access to their natural abilities and positive characteristics including confidence, creativity, compassion, courage, clarity, calmness, curiosity and connectedness. Anyone who desires greater access to these characteristics would benefit from this work. 

How it Works

We begin with relaxation, visualization and deep-listening techniques to guide you to learn about your protector parts. Then we discover the wounded part they're protecting, known as the exile, and reintegrate back it into your system through a process called unburdening. This enables you to feel whole again, and for the protector parts to ease up. Balance and harmony are restored, giving you greater access to you Self and the characteristics above.