The Steps of the IFS-Approach

What is IFS and what are these steps?

IFS or Internal Family Systems is both a model of our mind and psyche and an approach to therapy.
Both the model and approach work with the assumption that each person has many Parts (subpersonalities) and that these parts strongly influence (sometimes even determine) how one feels and acts in the world. In addition, IFS asserts that each person has a Self (an essential/spiritual core) that is not a Part and that is inherently compassionate, calm and open.

Introducing the Steps

The rest of this article is an overview of these Steps. For this I first want to introduce a diagram I developed (open for constructive feedback):

These are all the steps…
  1. IFS distinguishes between the work with Protective Parts (Protectors) and child parts that are carrying pain from the past (Exiles). There are different steps for both: The 6 F’s in light grey for working with Protectors and the Unburdening Process when working with an Exile.
  2. The (!) Signs represent particularly important thresholds of the IFS-Steps where the orientation shifts and we need to pay particular attention to the presence of Self or Self-Energy.
  3. The whole process revolves around the connection between parts (both Protectors and Exiles) with Self — this is represented by the spiral that moves closer towards the Self-Flower and the last step (Integration) symbolising the re-integration of a certain Part into Self-Energy and thus Self-Leadership.

The 6 F’s in more detail

The 6 F’s are the IFS-Steps for working with Protectors (Parts that actively do — sometimes very distorted — things to try and protect a person from harm and keep them functioning in life).

  • to connect with a person’s Protectors as Parts (as in, these are activated subpersonalities and not Self),
  • understand why they are acting a certain way
  • and enable a connection between the Protector and the Self in which the Part is separated from the Self.

For this IFS has developed 6 steps:

The 6 F’s

The Unburdening-Process in more detail:

The Unburdening-Process covers the steps that have emerged within IFS to help Exiles to let go of a Burden (old pain and unprocessed emotions) they are carrying — and often have carried for years or decades.

The Unburdening-Process

To read more for yourself, I recommend the following books:



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Lucas Forstmeyer

Lucas Forstmeyer


I am fascinated by the potential of human development and growth. That is what I think, write, talk and teach about.