Makana Path Blog

May 27, 2021

Internal Family Systems | Therapy for Addiction

internal family systems therapy for addiction

Evidence-based therapies can help you move forward in overcoming your addiction to drugs or alcohol. Sometimes those therapies are specialized, meaning they don’t necessarily fit into what is considered the “standard” way of addressing your addiction. Internal Family Systems is one method that is evidence-based and is a proven therapy for addiction.

Powerfully Transformative

Over the past twenty years, the Internal Family Systems model has evolved into a comprehensive approach that is now a powerfully transformative, evidence-based psychotherapy model. The comprehensive approach includes guidelines for working with families, individuals, and couples. Its model represents a blending of two models that had already existed, the multiplicity of the mind and systems thinking.

This new paradigm enables an understanding and harmonizing of the mind and, as a result, larger human systems. Through this evidence-based psychotherapy approach, people can heal from their struggles, including addiction, and the world itself can become a more compassionate place.

Different Parts of the Self

When the Internal Family Systems model refers to parts, it means an individual’s subpersonalities. These parts are best thought of as internal people of different talents, temperaments, and ages. The approach refers to the self as “The core of a person, which contains leadership qualities such as compassion, perspective, curiosity, and confidence. The Self is best equipped to lead the internal family.”

Founder Richard Schwartz, PhD, began as a systemic family therapist as well as an academic. Having been grounded in systems thinking, he developed Internal Family Systems in response to his clients’ descriptions of the various parts within themselves. Focusing on the relationships among the different parts of the self, he saw that there were systemic patterns to the way they were organized.

Dr. Schwartz also found that when an individual’s different parts felt safe and were able to relax, the individual would spontaneously experience the qualities of compassion, openness, and confidence that he identified as the self. In that state of self, the individual would then know how to heal their parts. He notes that “All of us are born with many sub-minds―or parts. These parts are not imaginary or symbolic. They are individuals who exist as an internal family within us―and the key to health and happiness is to honor, understand, and love every part.”

Two Main Parts in Addiction

In the Internal Family Systems approach to therapy for addiction, there are at least two parts to the self that are competing for attention within the individual. One part is known as compulsion in traditional psychology. It is also known as a diseased brain by addiction professionals. In the addiction struggle, it is the part of the self that wants to continue to use drugs or alcohol regardless of the negative consequences.

This part of the self is focused on a single track. It is powerful and can overcome any other parts of the self that may be fighting it. It’s difficult to resist, particularly as there is no concern for what might happen next.

The other part of the self that is evident in an individual who is addicted to drugs or alcohol is the part that is known as the internal critic. This part knows that going out and doing drugs or drinking alcohol is harmful and will fill the individual with self-blame. Addiction therapy based on the Internal Family Systems model will focus on this part of the self, encouraging the individual to open up a dialogue with it in the healing process.

These protector parts of the self will activate each other. They continue to stay busy trying to stop the other part and the individual who is fighting addiction cannot progress because of it. The Internal Family Systems psychotherapy model addresses ways to move forward past the apparent hopelessness of this conflict.

Healing Starts at Makana Path

Awareness is a critical first step in addiction. At Makana Path, our evidence-based clinical therapies equip you to overcome your addiction, giving you the skills you need to manage your mental and physical well-being in healthy ways. We address the emotional, physical, and sexual trauma that have led you to your addiction.

We also understand the challenges of staying at home and social distancing during COVID-19 and remain open to provide the help you need during these challenging times. To learn more about specialized therapies in addiction treatment, contact Makana Path today by calling 1-866-313-0978.

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