Internal Family Systems Coaching Support Authentic Communication and Systemic Change

“Bringing IFS into coaching is one of the most exciting and needed applications taking place right now.” – Richard Schwartz, creator of Internal Family Systems

The problem with many coaching models is that coaches are taught to sideline, or even eliminate parts of the psyche, especially if those parts are blocking or resisting progress toward your goals. 

Since parts cannot be eliminated, this type of shaming leaves clients conflicted as they struggle to transform unwanted behaviors. Instead of going to war with your saboteur or marginalizing resistant parts, IFS coaching respects each part and supports whole system alignment so that desired change initiatives and radical authenticity emerge.

IFS Internal Family Systems model is transforming the field of coaching. The foundation of IFS coaching is to honor the positive intention of all parts of the inner world. As you identify and befriend parts, your protectors may give you permission to meet young vulnerable parts who are seeking compassion. Once parts are seen, heard, and understood fully, they can relax their grip.  

Without this holistic approach, people tend to find themselves stuck or disempowered. One of the most valuable aspects of IFS coaching is that you can unblend or separate from your activated parts and get to know their positive intention. You can transform your relationship with the parts that are blocking your goals or vision. For example, instead of pointing the finger at others’ racism, sexism and other systemic forms of oppression, you learn to do a U-turn to examine your own internal oppressor. IFS coaching can provide gentle support as you unlearn isms, find your voice, and take a stand for compassionate activism.

As wounded parts begin to heal, only then will the inner critic relax and allow the whole system to be led by Self: your calm, confident and creative core. When an extreme aspect of your inner system dominates, you can discover the purpose of that part and deepen your awareness of what motivates them, so that you can heal old wounds, love deeply, and lead courageously.

For example, a man from the global south was in line to become the next leader of a large international climate change organization, but he knew it would never happen because he was terrified to speak in front of large groups. He remembered the audience laughing at him in a school play as a child and an inner voice was adamant that he never set foot on stage again. With IFS coaching, he learned to befriend this protector and discovered that it strongly wanted to protect him from embarrassment. With IFS coaching, he came to appreciate this part for keeping him safe. Soon after, he got a standing ovation when he spoke with humility to a group of 400 colleagues. He said, “I was surprised that I spoke with confidence and clarity. Understanding my terrified part was transformational.”

As you recognize your parts, understand their patterns, and hold them with compassion, your inner world begins to shift.  Many parts just want to be loved, so when you acknowledge the purpose and the genius of your parts, the entire system begins to collaborate and wisdom emerges. As you metabolize your inner experience, your system can heal. This gives you greater access to your enlightened core which is calm, curious, compassionate and courageous.  As you create space for your core Self to lead, you cultivate more authentic conversations, more harmonious relationships, and more resonant leadership.

For more articles like this one, check out the Authentic Communication Group where you can learn to integrate the four pillars of Authentic Communication: Nonviolent Communication; Internal Family Systems; Diversity, Equity & Inclusion;and Here and Now Process Work.