Why the Internal Family Systems Model Is so Effective for Couples Counselling


  • Author Josipa Katinic
  • Published May 13, 2023
  • Word count 974

No matter what kind of relationship you’re in, or how long you’ve been with your partner, maintaining a healthy relationship can be tough.

Whether it’s difficulties with abandonment, ambivalence, communication, intimacy, trust, power struggles, financial problems, or something else entirely, romantic relationships can be very tumultuous and are often filled with conflict.

And when a couple is dealing with these kinds of problems, or questioning the viability of their relationship, one of the best ways to address these issues is through the use of couples counselling.

There are many modalities that are typically used by counsellors for couples therapy, including things like solution-focused therapy, narrative therapy, or the Gottman Method, but often these modalities don’t dig deep enough to actually get to the root of the problem.

However, there is another modality that’s been gaining ground in the world of couples counselling, not least because of how effective it is at getting to the root cause of relationship issues.

It’s called the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model, and it has the potential to revolutionize couples counselling as we know it.

So, if you’re having relationship problems, and you’re looking for the most effective modality out there, then you’re going to want to keep reading.

Because in this article, we’re going to explain what the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model is, and why it’s so effective for couples counselling.

What Is the Internal Family Systems Model?

Developed by Dr. Richard Schwartz in the 1980s, the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on understanding and addressing the internal conflicts that people experience.

The IFS model suggests that each individual has multiple parts within them, which are basically just sub-personalities or aspects of the self. These parts may have different beliefs, emotions, and behaviours, and can sometimes conflict with one another.

For example, in the context of couples counselling, a person may have a part of them that wants to be more intimate and spend more time with their partner, but it’s in conflict with a wounded part of them that wants to avoid getting too close, as it’s dealing with abandonment issues stemming from something that happened when they were a child.

This modality aims to help individuals understand and manage these different parts of themselves by learning to identify and communicate with these parts in an effort to develop a more harmonious relationship between them. This process can help people to reduce internal conflicts, improve emotional regulation, and increase overall well-being.

IFS therapy has become quite a popular form of counselling, not least because it can be used to treat a wide range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, trauma, and addiction.

What’s more, it can also be used in individual therapy, group therapy, and couples counselling.

Why Is IFS Therapy so Effective for Couples Counselling?

Although it’s not commonly used, the Internal Family Systems model is gaining ground in the world of couples counselling, as it can be highly effective at helping to maintain the health of relationships.

For one thing, because it teaches people that each individual has different “parts” within them that are sometimes conflicting, it provides a great framework for understanding and addressing conflicts that may arise between partners.

This can help couples learn to communicate more effectively and make them more likely to work together to resolve issues.

For example, if a couple is struggling with communication, the Internal Family Systems model can help them to identify which parts of themselves are contributing to the problem. Perhaps one partner has a part of them that is afraid of conflict and avoids difficult conversations, while the other partner has a part of them that becomes angry and defensive when they feel unheard.

But by recognizing that these different parts exist and considering how they affect the relationship, the couple can work together to find more effective ways to communicate and resolve conflicts.

Additionally, IFS therapy can help couples to build greater empathy and understanding for each other.

Because when both partners understand that they have multiple parts within them that may have different needs and beliefs, then it’s much easier for them to learn to approach each other with curiosity and openness, rather than judgment or criticism, which can lead to a deeper level of intimacy and connection.

In our experience, one of the best things about IFS therapy in relation to couples counselling is that it forces both parties to take responsibility for their own contributions to relationship problems, and that collaborative effort makes it more likely that couples will find long-term solutions and stick to them because everyone involved is investing their time and energy into solving the problem.

At the same time, the Internal Family Systems model goes much deeper than most modalities and is often better equipped to get to the root cause of problems, as it considers how what’s happened to you in the past, and the trauma it may have caused, could be contributing to problems in your current relationship.

Among other things, this allows people to have a better grasp of how to set boundaries, learn to accept responsibility for their actions, and stop expecting their partner to be responsible for the way they react, while having a better understanding of their partner’s sensitivities or vulnerabilities, and the behaviours they can inspire.

Overall, the IFS model can be a valuable tool for couples counselling because it helps individuals to understand and manage their own internal conflicts, along with those of their significant others, which can ultimately lead to more effective communication, deeper understanding, and stronger relationships.

Are you looking for couples counselling and would like to give IFS therapy a try? Contact us today to book your free consultation.

Josipa Katinic, Registered Clinical Counsellor, and founder of TalkOnline Counselling. TalkOnline Counselling is designed to help clients have a deep understanding of their afflictions, and how they’re affecting their lives, while offering them personalized, long-term solutions to help them conquer whatever it is they’re dealing with. Book a free appointment at /talkonlinebc.janeapp.com.

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