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Worksheet & Case Illustration
6 to Inte
Internaall FFamil amilyy Syste
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Frank Anderson, M.D.

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Effective and practical printable tools for use with your clients!
Internal Family
Systems Therapy (IFS)
Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS) provides a
revolutionary treatment for PTSD, anxiety, depression,
substance abuse, eating disorders and more.

Using a non-pathologizing, accelerated approach —

rooted in neuroscience — IFS applies inner resources
and self-compassion for healing emotional wounding
at its core.
See for Yourself: Paradigm Shift in IFS
In the interest of anchoring the concepts of IFS, here is a preliminary illustration of assessment and
diagnosis at the outset of an IFS therapy with a traumatized client.

On the phone before her first session, Serena offers some cursory details about her life and then firmly
asserts that she doesn’t want to spend a lot of time going over the past because her childhood was not
the problem. She says she has tried talking about her childhood in therapy in the past but it didn’t help.
Mostly she is puzzled at the strong reaction she is having to her German boyfriend having broken up with her
because he was leaving the United States.

SERENA: It’s not like we were that serious. I just can’t stop crying.

THERAPIST: Have you been in therapy before?

SERENA: Yes it was boring. I swore I would never do it again.

In this brief exchange the therapist learns a few important things about Serena, which she
frames according to the IFS model.
- Serena has a part who feels very sad but she has no idea why.
- The relationship with her German boyfriend was either casual or a protective part is now
minimizing its importance.
- Something about therapy in the past was so unbearable that her protectors swore never
to let her go back.

When she comes in for the first session the therapist writes all this on a whiteboard so they can look at
it together.
Serena’s parts:
Relationship with boyfriend was not important
Can’t stop crying
Will never
Puzzled gowhy
about to therapy
Serena again!
is crying

Introducing the Concept of Communicating With Parts

THERAPIST: You’ve mentioned all these feelings and thoughts. I often find that when we focus on them
internally and listen to them, we can learn important things about ourselves. Are you open
to trying this? See which part needs your attention first.

SERENA: Why can’t I stop crying?

Switching to Parts Language and Getting Permission to Proceed

THERAPIST: Good let’s check on that. Ask if any of these other parts of you object to you helping
the one who can’t stop crying.

Asking other parts for permission to proceed is always wise once you choose a target part.

Copyright © 2017, Frank G. Anderson et al. Internal Family Systems Skills Training Manual. All rights reserved.
SERENA: It’s kind of funny but I’m hearing someone yelling, “I don’t want to be here!”

Welcoming All Parts

THERAPIST: You did have that part who swore never to go to therapy again so that makes sense.
Is it okay to hear more?

Inviting polarized parts (parts who may disagree) to participate helps forestall any urge they
might have to sabotage the therapy and also provides crucial information.

SERENA: I guess so.

THERAPIST: How do you feel toward the part who doesn’t want to be here?
SERENA: Kinda curious about it.

This more open-hearted attitude signals that we can proceed.

Remember the Target Part

THERAPIST: Okay, first let’s tell the one who can’t stop crying that we’ll come back to it.

As with family therapy, we are polite and inclusive of all parts.

SERENA: Seems like the crying is connected to the one who doesn’t want to be here but I don’t know

THERAPIST: Would you like to find out how?

Checking to see if she remains curious and will be available to hear this information.


Serena has successfully shifted into being curious about and observing her inner experience
without a lot of fear or judgment.

Making Connections

THERAPIST: Ask the one who doesn’t want to be here to tell you more.

SERENA: It’s afraid I’ll be overwhelmed.

Serena has a protective part who fears that giving the crying part attention will encourage it to
take over, which would overwhelm her with negative emotion.

THERAPIST: Do you understand this fear?

Copyright © 2017, Frank G. Anderson et al. Internal Family Systems Skills Training Manual. All rights reserved.
Again checking to see if Serena remains available (curious enough) to hear more about the
crying part, who is in distress.

SERENA: I was in a car crash when I was five. My mother died. But I don’t remember her so I never think
about it.

Serena is now beginning to be aware of her parts rather than being dissociated or overwhelmed.
This 5-year-old part was exiled after her mother’s death. Protectors (other parts) keep the 5-year-
old out of her consciousness.

THERAPIST: We can help the 5-year-old not take you over.

The therapist begins to reassure Serena’s protectors that the 5-year-old can separate so that she
can be safely helped.

After this first meeting, the therapist is aware of the following: Serena has a traumatized part: a 5-year-
old whose life was upended by the random violence of her mother’s death in a car crash. Protective
parts have kept this 5-year-old out of mind. And the part who removed Serena from therapy years ago
does not feel safe about her returning to therapy now because of the danger of the distressed 5-year-
old’s overwhelming her emotionally.

Although the therapist knows all this, much remains unknown: what do Serena’s internal and external
systems believe about her mother’s death? She might have parts – or actual external people – who
hold her responsible. She might have beliefs about god, punishment, safety and fate. She might have
parts who feel survivor guilt (the belief, for example, that surpassing her mother in happiness or
longevity would be a betrayal). Or parts who feel separation guilt (for example, the belief that growing
up and leaving her father would wound him). This initial assessment is just a beginning. There
is much to learn and therapy itself will be the learning process.

Copyright © 2017, Frank G. Anderson et al. Internal Family Systems Skills Training Manual. All rights reserved.
IFS Treatment Exercise

Find, Focus On and

Flesh Out a Target Part
In IFS treatment, externalizing helps parts to differentiate.
While many clients are able to turn their attention inward
and get enough separation from parts to communicate
with them, some clients, especially those with trauma
histories, are at first substantially blocked by protectors
and will distract or dissociate if invited to pay attention to
their internal experience. For them, externalizing options
can be particularly useful and can be done with any one
of a great number of activities and props – invite your
imagination and creativity.

The following worksheet is just one example of an

exercise that can be facilitated with clients to help them
locate and externalize a target part.
Find, Focus On and CI
Flesh Out a Target Part
DIRECTIONS: This exercise walks you through the process of locating a target part. You may want to
record the instructions below on a phone or other device so you can listen to them. Begin by turning your
attention inside.

• Breathe and go slow.

• Remind your parts that there is room for everyone.
• Notice sensations, feelings and thoughts.
- Ask:
“Who needs my attention?”

Write that down:


• Continue to observe, be patient, and notice what shows up.

• Notice if any sensations, feelings or thoughts are being dismissed internally as insignificant or not real.

If so, start by being curious about the part who is trying to steer you this way. Write that down:

If not, choose whatever comes to mind first as your starting point. Notice where this part (sensation,
feeling, thought) is located in, on or around with boyfriend was not important
your body.
• Do you see the part? Will never go to therapy again!
• Feel it?
• Hear it?
• Sense it in some other way?

Write down what you notice:


Copyright © 2017, Frank G. Anderson et al. Internal Family Systems Skills Training Manual. All rights reserved.
Get the Complete Collection of
IFS Exercises, Worksheets, Techniques
& Meditations in the Workbook

“A unique and effective roadmap for
working with parts of the self to resolve
trauma and attachment injury. Concise,
accessible, and grounded in an attitude
of kindness and respect for the client, the
manual includes vivid case transcripts, clear
solutions for therapeutic challenges, and
engaging exercises for clients to complete.
With these practical and accessible
interventions, therapists of all persuasions
will find this book to be an invaluable
addition to their toolbox, one that could
revolutionize their clinical work.”
-- Pat Ogden, PhD,
Founder & Educational Director,
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute

“Without losing the compassionate, gentle

essence of the Internal Family Systems
model, this workbook helps clients and
therapists alike to have a structure and
guiding hand through the struggle
and pain of trauma treatment. This is a
workbook that touches the heart rather
than simply managing the symptoms.
-- Janina Fisher, PhD,
International Trauma Expert and
Author of Healing the Fragmented
Selves of Trauma Survivors

Internal Family Systems Skills Training Manual

Trauma-Informed Treatment for Anxiety, Depression, PTSD “My staff and I have been using the exercises
and meditations with our clients in our
& Substance Abuse trauma-informed eating disorder group with
positive feedback from all! The introduction is
By: Frank G. Anderson, M.D., Martha Sweezy, PH.D. & so clear for those unfamiliar with the model.
Thank you for this wonderful resource.”
Richard C. Schwartz, PHD
-- Dr. Amy Banks, MD,
Director of Advanced Training and Senior Research
Scientist at The Jean Baker Miller Training Institute

Order Your Copy Today at

and the Wellesley Centers for Women, and
co-author of Four Ways to Click: Rewire Your Brain for
Stronger, More Rewarding Relationships