Full Course Description

Treating Complex Trauma with Internal Family Systems (IFS)

Program Information


  1. Integrate the IFS therapy model into your clinical practice and accelerate the healing from complex trauma.
  2. Analyze the protective parts of clients with trauma histories to help with assessment and treatment planning.
  3. Apply an alternative view of symptoms and psychopathology, showing how client’s parts are actually trying to protect them from emotional pain and psychological pain.
  4. Demonstrate how IFS therapy translates common comorbidities into parts language, showing a non-pathological perspective of mental health disorders.
  5. Communicate how IFS therapy increases the therapist’s curious and compassionate self when working with clients who have trauma histories.
  6. Differentiate a therapeutic issue from a biological condition for better decision making in your clinical practice.
  7. Evaluate traditional attachment theory perspectives on healing to the IFS therapy view (an internal attachment model) and learn to trust the clients’ internal relationship to heal their traumatic wounds.
  8. Determine if trauma symptoms are rooted in sympathetic activation or parasympathetic withdrawal to help inform the treatment process.
  9. Demonstrate IFS specific therapeutic techniques that shift arousal and withdrawal, allowing quicker access to clients’ traumatic vulnerabilities.
  10. Develop a deep understanding of how neuroscience informs therapeutic decisions in IFS therapy.
  11. Integrate IFS therapy with your current treatment approaches including EMDR, DBT, and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy.
  12. Differentiate IFS therapy to traditional phase-oriented treatment and learn accelerated ways of accessing and healing traumatic wounds.


Treating the Various Types of Trauma

  • Acute trauma
  • PTSD
  • Complex or relational trauma
  • Developmental and attachment traumas
  • Extreme or dissociative trauma

Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapy: Healing of Emotional Wounds

  • The origins, goals & assumptions
  • A non-pathologizing, accelerated approach, rooted in neuroscience
  • Different from phase-oriented treatment
    • The importance of our protective responses
    • Deal with emotional overwhelm head-on
  • Multiplicity of the mind – we all have parts
  • Healing at the cellular level

Study limitations:  small sample size, no control group

Clinical considerations for clients experiencing abuse

Manage Common Co-Morbidities

  • Depression, panic attacks, substance abuse, eating disorders, ADD and OCD
  • A non-pathological approach
    • Comorbidities as protective responses to trauma
    • Symptoms as “parts of the self”

Differentiate Therapeutic Issues from Biological Conditions

  • Intersection of biology and situation (“Real Mind-Body Medicine”)
  • Therapist’s role in biology – When to refer and when to work it through
  • Psychotherapy of psychopharmacology

The IFS Therapy Technique

Step 1: Identify the Target Symptom

  • Identify the “target symptom”
  • Apply meditation practices
  • Separate the person (self) from the symptom
  • Learn about its intention

Step 2: Gain Access to Internal Strengths & Resource for Healing

  • Move from defensiveness to curiosity
  • The “Self” of the therapist-countertransference redefined
  • Access compassion to open the pathways toward healing
  • Role of empathy in healing – the benefits and the downsides

Step 3: Find the Fear and Function of the Symptom

  • Focusing on its fear
  • The real story behind the symptom
  • Foster the internal relationship

Attachment Disorders and Relational Trauma

  • IFS therapy as internal attachment work
  • Attachment styles as parts of self
  • Attachment trauma – the role of the therapist
  • Heal relational wounds of childhood
  • Client’s “Self” as the corrective object
  • Work with preverbal trauma

The Neurobiology of Trauma

  • Neuroscience for therapists – what you need to know
  • Fear circuitry and the development of PTSD
  • Extreme reactions and Autonomic Nervous System
  • Rage to suicide and dissociation to shame

Dealing with the Extreme Reactions of Trauma

  • Talk directly to the symptom-direct access
  • Introducing the part to the “Self”
  • Deal with the overwhelm – no need for building resources
  • Therapist parts – How to stay clear and calm while working with clients in extreme states

How Neuroscience Informs Therapeutic Decisions

  • Top-down and bottom-up strategies rooted in neuroscience
  • When it’s necessary to take over and “be the auxiliary brain” for your client
  • Sensing vs. making sense of things
  • At home strategies

Step 4: Healing of Traumatic Wounds:

  • Three phases to healing:
    • Witness the pain
    • Remove the wounded part out of the past
    • Let go of the feelings, thoughts and beliefs
  • Science behind the healing – memory reconsolidation

Integrate IFS Therapy into Your Treatment Approach

  • EMDR, DBT, Sensorimotor/SE and other methods
  • Transformation vs adaptation or rehabilitation
  • Going beyond the cognitive (experiential therapies)
  • Integrate IFS therapy with your current clinical approach

Live demonstrations
Practice sessions

Please Note: PESI is not affiliated or associated with Marsha M. Linehan, PhD, ABPP, or her organizations.


Target Audience

Counselors, Social Workers, Psychologists, Therapists, Addiction Counselors, Nurses, Marriage and Family Therapists, Other Professionals, Who Work within the Mental Health Fields

Copyright : 04/26/2018

BONUS: Treating Complex Trauma Clients at the Edge: How Brain Science Can Inform Interventions

We often get shaken and lose confidence in our approach when a client’s trauma response edges into seemingly uncontrollable dynamics of rage, panic, or suicidal desperation.

Watch Frank Anderson, colleague of Dr. Bessel van der Kolk and Dr. Richard Schwartz, as he provides an essential road map for treating relational trauma cases. Explore the neurobiological processes of hyperarousal and parasympathetic withdrawal and the underlying symptoms.

Watch now and you will also learn various therapeutic techniques and interventions that can be integrated with psychotherapy practices to help soothe your clients’ trauma.

Program Information


  1. Evaluate the extreme symptoms of trauma by determining if they are rooted in sympathetic activation or parasympathetic withdrawal to inform clinical treatment interventions.
  2. Articulate methods by which neuroscience can be interfaced with psychotherapy practices to improve clinical outcomes.


 Experiential Treatments - Integrating neuroscience and psychotherapy

  • Necessity of utilizing physical, emotional and relationship aspects in therapeutic intervention
Problems with traditional phase oriented treatment
  • Negative evaluation of symptoms - ignoring their protective function
Internal Family Systems
  • Understanding symptom presentation as positive efforts pushed to extremes
  • Welcoming and integrating all parts of an individual
  • Identifying intent of symptomology, importance of avoiding shaming
Redefining trauma related diagnoses and integrating overactive protective mechanisms
  • Disorganized attachment
  • Borderline Personality Disorder, Dissociative Identity Disorder
Therapist factors - vulnerabilities
  • Impact of therapist parts acting as separately as the clients we work with
  • Responding effectively to personal triggers
Symptoms of post trauma
  • Hyperarousal, hyperarousal, psychic wounds
  • Importance of obtaining permission before addressing psychic wounds
Experiential exercise - self-awareness, response to triggers
Mind-brain relationships
  • Neuroplasticity, neural integration
  • Neural networks associated with trauma
  • Implicit nature of trauma memories
Autonomic nervous system
  • Role of cortisol
  • Sympathetic hyper-arousal
  • Characteristics of extreme symptom activation and mixed states
Therapeutic responses
  • Choosing compassion or empathic responses
  • Providing auxiliary cognition
  • Strategies to avoid contributing to hyperarousal
  • Top down strategies to separate or unblend
Case presentation - example of permission seeking, direct access and unblending
Polyvagal Theory
  • Dorsal and ventral branches
  • Activating strategies, responding to hypo-arousal, blunting

Target Audience

Psychologists, Addiction Counselors, Counselors, Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapists, Nurses, and other Behavioral Health Professionals

Copyright : 03/23/2018