IFS Therapy: How to Talk With Parts

Parts Work by Writing and Journaling

Parts as Separate Personalities Coexisting in the Psyche: How to Talk With Them

How to talk with Parts?

Parts are separate entities in our psyche, according to IFS therapy. We all have noticed that we act a bit different depending on who we’re with.

But it’s not just about interactions with people – it happens in different situations and at different times in our lives too.

Essentially, we’ve got these different sides to ourselves that pop up depending on what’s going on.

Often we ourselves don’t understand our own actions. We often realize that when we look back, but sometimes we can’t understand ourselves even in the moment we’re acting in a certain way.

Therapies like IFS Therapy, or Internal Family Systems, identify our various aspects as Parts (or parts; in my writings and artworks, I use both capitalization styles).

These are distinct personalities residing in our psyche, each with its own thoughts, desires, and considerations.

According to Internal Family Systems, our various Parts comprize our psyche, but are also separate from our true Self. 

It is essential to learn how to talk with Parts to understand better their motives and feelings. Because together, they comprize our own actions in the world.

How to Talk With Parts: Jump to the Exercise

Why Talk With Parts?

Different Parts Emerging in Our Daily Life

Facets of our persona emerge in our daily lives, taking the lead in our decisions, only to vanish later, leaving us to ponder what influenced our choices.

“I can’t believe I said/did that.”

We often say things like “I wasn’t myself when I said that” or “I don’t know what came over me” to describe moments when IFS therapy identifies different parts of ourselves taking the lead.

Internal Family Systems Therapy Family of Parts

In the framework of IFS, parts are conceptualized as distinct personalities within the family of our psyche. Thus, Parts coexist in the psyche, interacting as if they form a family, engaging with each other.

Because these parts of ourselves may have different desires, occasionally they may clash. This results in inner conflicts that impact the decisions we make in life. However, that conflict is not always apparent.

Two Internal Family Systems Infographic Images

Illustrating Parts & The Core Self

Understanding Inner Conflict

Inner Conflict Through the Lens of IFS

IFS Parts in Conflict With Each Other

In IFS therapy it is understood that conflict arises when different parts disagree with each other. The inner conflict among different facets of our personality generates inner friction, leading to a sense of contradiction that disrupts various aspects of our lives.

This internal discord hinders our ability to make new decisions and understand past choices.

In Jungian psychology, this conflict is referred to as the influence of the ‘Shadow self‘, while other therapeutic modalities talk about the Inner Critic and the Judge.

Inner Conflict and Life Challenges

Overall, the inner contradiction plays a significant role in the challenges we face in our lives.

Understanding these diverse aspects of ourselves is crucial for leading a more conscious existence.

Otherwise, we risk being swayed by our own impulses, left uncertain about the motives behind our choices.

Connecting With Parts

How to Talk With Parts & Make A Connection

Dealing with Inner Conflicts & Connecting with Parts

As I said, sources of inner contradictions may not always be apparent, because certain parts of our psyche stay dormant much of the time. Many of these (often managerial, but also exile) Parts would emerge only when triggered or in certain periods of our lives.

However, these internal discrepancies and conflicts affect our daily life. That’s why it’s crucial to kickstart the conversation – talking things out helps steer clear of those inner discrepancies.

Parts Therapy with a Therapist

This is why Internal Family Systems therapy suggests using a professional therapist to conduct the conversation. Parts therapy, as it’s called, is the process of connecting with Parts via a professional facilitator.

IFS strongly recommends maintaining the conversation with Parts with the help of a therapist, in addition to individual work. However, not all people can access an IFS therapist. 

Parts Therapy Without a Therapist: Writing & Journaling

In case you’re currently without any options for an IFS therapy professional, you can try writing and journaling. In IFS, there are at least a few techniques for self-therapy through journaling.

Jump to the Internal Family Systems journaling exercise by clicking this button:

Questions to Ask Parts

Key Is to Ask Without Judgement

Example Questions to Ask Parts

An example of questions to ask IFS Parts are the following:

  • How do you feel about [event, person, place etc.]?
  • What do you like about [event, person, place etc.]?
  • What do/did you dislike about them?
  • What do you like to do?
  • What do you prefer not to do?

For example, you want to assess how does a part of you feel about your new workplace. Example questions to ask:

  • What do you like about the job?
  • What do you not like about the job?
  • What could be done better in your opinion?


Feeling States as Anchors

It is essential to circle back to “how do you feel” from time to time. In the list of questions to ask IFS Parts, feeling states are like anchors. Feelings of Parts bring you back to the core reason a Part is acting or thinking in some way. 

Then, a next logical step is to feel the feelings inside your body. Often these feelings are in fact psychosomatic experiences we feel through the day, like chest pain, back pain, headache and so on.

Be Careful to Ask Questions Without Judgement

There is a two-fold reason to ask Parts questions without judgement. First, just like a person would feel judged and not open up, Parts too would notice being attacked and refuse to open up.

Another is the simple reason that, according to IFS, if you’re judging a Part, you’re not asking from Self. In fact, you’re talking from the point of another, probably opposing, Part.

The Core Self has some distinct qualities that you can learn to quickly recognize, and never exerts judgement towards others or components of the psyche.

IFS Parts: The Compassionate Approach

Talking With Parts With Understanding, Compassion & No Judgement

As I said, talkig with Parts should come from the point of the Self. In essense, you want to talk with care and compassion, and show no judgement towards the Part. 

This is a core principle in IFS therapy that resonates throughout Internal Family Systems – the idea of listening with compassion.

No Blame & No Shame

Every facet of our personality, every side of our psyche has a reason to feel and act in certain ways. Listening with compassion alleviates the blaming and shaming we tend to direct towards parts of ourselves we don’t like.

Blame and shame put a veil on our true feelings and thoughts and keep them concealed. As is famously said by Rich Schwartz, “there are no bad parts.”

There’s A Reason for Every Part’s Behaviour

What he means by this is that we are not to blame and point fingers, because there’s a reason for every thought and feeling we experience. Every Part has their reasons.

In the same vein, we’re not to feel ashamed and hide our feelings from our own selves. Better to understand and find new ways to cocreate with the parts our psyche is comprised of.

Avoid Blaming and Attacking While Journaling

It’s essential to use language that avoids blaming and attacking when communicating with your Part. 

This is the only way you can help these parts of your psyche to open up and share.

Beneath their actions and their apparent feelings there may be a myriad of other considerations and limiting beliefs. Journaling with the Part with compassion is the only way to access that. 

Judgement Blocks Communication 

Just as a real life person would react if they notice your judgement, a Part wouldn’t feel safe if asked with a hint of contempt.

When even people who don’t know what you think can notice your judgement, it’s easy to understand how a Part will reconsider communication the moment they notice your judgement.

Personification of Parts of Us As A Useful Tool

Building on that, IFS therapy is useful as it emphasizes the personification of parts of ourselves.

Consequently, if we manage to not judge, this allows us to accept their thoughts, feelings, and considerations as valid experiences.

Because in fact they are – both experiences of the personified Part, and our own experiences that we often conceal from ourselves.

Casually Luxe Printable Workbooks and Journals for Mental Health - self help mental health worksheets PDF by Casually Luxe for Self Therapy and Self Development

Journaling As A Way to Access the Hidden Parts of Our Psyche

Parts Therapy with Journaling

What is Self-Leadership & Can Your Use It Journaling?

Self-Led Parts Therapy

With or without a therapist, IFS emphasises on leading sessions through the Self – be it therapy or journaling. An essential aspect of Parts therapy with a licensed therapist underscores the need for self-leadership when engaging in conversation with your internal Parts.

Conversations From the Point of The Self

In the context of IFS, being self-led implies posing questions from your Core Self, distinct from another Part. This approach emphasizes the importance of connecting with your authentic Core Self to guide the therapeutic dialogue and exploration.

Journaling From The Self

Similarly, while writing down these IFS journaling exercises it is essential to try to maintain the viewpoint of the Self. Or, as they call it, being in Self.

The Therapist as a Facilitator of Self

When a skilled IFS therapist guides the conversation, he or she aids their client in accessing their Self. Furthermore, the therapist must also be in Self to effectively lead the session.

This collaborative state of being in Self contributes to a more profound and productive therapeutic experience.

How to Tell If You’re In Self

A good way to know if you’re in Self is if there’s judgement towards the Part you’re conversing with. If there is a sense of judgement or other emotion like disqust, you’re not In Self. Rather, another Part is leading the conversation.

Journaling on your own can be tricky as you try to access whether in Self or not. You can also check if you’re calm and compassionate, or in other words feel the core attributes of being in Self like the 8 C’s and 5 P’s of the Core Self.

Compassionate Approach in Therapy

As I mentioned, IFS therapy stands apart from other therapeutic approaches by prioritizing a compassionate engagement when communicating with different Parts.

With or without a therapist, it is crucial to follow this method and ask from a point of compassion. Again, this comes naturally when in Self.

How to Talk With IFS Parts

Journaling & Self-Reflection to Converse with Parts

A great way to begin talking with your different sides, especially if you can’t go to therapy, is to write in a journal. Journaling techniques provide a unique way for accessing your psyche.

Talking With Parts & Being Self-Led

Conversing with Parts by journaling means writing freely, trying to be calm and quiet in your mind. In essence, it means being self-led.

It also means being free of judgement and criticism. Remember the 8 C’s (like calm and curiosity) and the 5 P’s (like patience and playfulness) related to the Self.

How To Do IFS on Yourself

In my opinion, journaling is the best way to do IFS on yourself, without the help of a facilitator. A distinct advantage of the process of writing is that it slows down your thought so you gain extra time for self-reflection.

Thus, journaling is essentially the best way to converse with your Parts, even better than talking in your head.

Printable IFS Therapy Resources

By the way, for now I do not have journaling prompts for IFS therapy, but I do have great printable posters and a ready to ship IFS therapy print explaining IFS therapy in detail. All of them are available at my Etsy shop.

Journal Writing, Internal Family Systems

Journaling for Parts Work

The following Parts therapy exercise is an excellent journaling technqiue to initiate a conversation with a Part that you feel like you’ve been in conflict with.

Disclaimer: this technique was adapted from another type of therapy. I came across this approach in the book “Embracing Your Inner Critic” by Hal and Sydra Stone.

As I mentioned, I believe the concepts in other types of therapy closely align with Internal Family Systems, akin to the earlier Shadow work introduced by Jung. A key difference is that Hal talks with the Inner Critic, rather than a Part. 

Inner Critic as a Manager Part: A Quick Side Note

The Inner Critic can be likened to a Manager part that likes to keep things under control by constant criticism. In addition, it would utilize self-sabotage and inducing depressive episodes. As written in the book:

“The inner Critic is the voice within us that criticizes us, whereas the Judge is the self within us that criticizes other people”

Conversations With the Selves

In addition to the Inner Critic and the Judge, according to the authors there are other types of selves (or Parts). For example, we can talk to the Vulnerable Child, the Inner Therapist, the Supportive Parent, The Perfectionist and so on.

Similar to Internal Family Systems, the goal is to establish conversation.

Inner Critic Dialog by Journaling

According to the book, you can talk with the Inner Critic to understand where they’re coming from. This can be done by journaling, as well as converation.

Hal and Sydra Stone’s approach utilizes something called “Voice Dialog” in a stark resemblance with IFS therapy’s phylosophy of compassion for the Parts. They also talk about the Aware Ego, the equivalent of the Core Self in Internal Family Systems.

Journal Writing & Journaling Techniques

As it’s mentioned in the book, journal writing has been here for a while, mainly popularized by Jungian psychologists. The resemblance with IFS in this and other approaches is apparent.

With that out of the way, let’s delve into a journaling technique in IFS therapy.

Internal Family Systems Therapy 8 Cs and 5 Ps of IFS - Printable Posters
Internal Family Systems Writing Exercise

Parts Therapy Exercise

How to Talk With Parts: IFS Therapy Journaling Technique

For this Parts therapy journaling exercise you need to sit in a quiet place, away from any distractions.

  1. Take a piece of paper and begin writing
  2. Name the Part you want to address (i.e. Inner Critic)
  3. Visualize the part (skip this step if it’s too difficult for you)
  4. Begin with “I”, establishing a separation from you (ideally in Self) and the Part
  5. Ask about how they feel
  6. Feel yourself the feelings that emerge in different parts of your body
  7. Ask follow-up questions and wait for the feelings to emerge

Internal Family Systems Exercise

A Second Version of The Exercise with Two Parts

As we were discussing recently with friends, there’s an interesting approach to talking with Parts, where you have a discussion with two Parts one after the other.

I personally noticed a tendency towards having “moments” with two distinct Parts in my daily life. This writing exercise helps me talk first with one part, then with the second.  

They often have very different opinions about certain topics in my life. In fact, often one of the Parts is directly responsible for blockages and problems related to these topics.

IFS Questions To Ask Parts

Internal Family Systems Journal Prompts

What are some journal propmpts to ask Parts? Watch this video by Conor McMillen‘s “Self Therapy & Internal Family Systems (IFS)” channel, where he talks about seven questions to ask Parts. 

Seven Questions to Ask Parts

1. Name the Part.

2. What does it feel like emotionally?

3. What does it look like?

What does it feel like in your body and where?

What does it say?

How does it make you behave?

What does it want?

IFS Journaling Exercise Example

In this exercise example (adapted from the book) I am conveniently talking with a Part that I would call my Inner Critic:

Q: I wanted to talk to you about how powerful I think you are and how much influence you have in my life.

A: Well I’m glad that you appreciate just how important I am. If you did exactly as I say, we wouldn’t have had such troube in our lives.

Q: This is not exactly what I meant, I meant that I feel exhausted by your constant criticisism.

A: Well Better me than them…

Q: Actually, how did it make you feel to you criticize me last time when we talked with such and such and they mentioned [a negative trait I have]?

A: I felt unsure about ourselves and the qualities we posess. I felt uneasiness and sadness and I felt like I have to protect us from the outer world.

Begin feeling the feelings…

Goals With this Exercise

What to Aim For & Questions to Ask

Start a Conversation with the Part

This journaling exercise aims to initiate a conversation. The writing technique is particularly helpful if you’ve noticed that you’ve been acting “not like yourself” for a while and want to explore the reasons behind it.

Mental Health Printable Artworks, Printable Self-Development tools, IFS therapy posters and workbooks by CasuallyLuxe
Journaling and writing is a great way to establish a connection with your psyche. Try the 7 Days of Positive Thoughts printable journal next.

Questions to Ask Parts

A good example of questions is: How do they feel? Where do they feel that (point in your body)? Why do they feel it? How do they want to feel instead? What do they make you do, like actions in real life? 

Your goal is to get to the core questions What do they want? What do they want to do instead of their core function? 

Ask How They Feel

The goal is to understand the inner feelings behind a Part’s behaviour. Why do they act the way they do?

Establish a conversation with the necessary compassion of understanding that all Parts, similar to the Inner Critic, have a reason to behave so.

Then try to feel the feeling inside your body, without attaching to the Part and associating with it.

Ask How They Want to Feel

In addition to how they feel, ask how they want to feel. For example, in the IFS journaling example a further probe into the Inner Critic may return the answer “I want to feel like I belong and I am accepted with my negative sides”.

Again, the end goal is to get to the core answer of what do they want, as well as what do they want to have as a function instead of their current one. Don’t expect this to happen in one session though.


8 Cs and 5 Ps of the Self for Professional Use

By the way, if you ever need the 8 Cs and 5 Ps of the Self printable poster edited, or if you need “casuallyluxe.com” removed, you can always contact me at casuallyluxxe@gmail.com

IFS Therapy Mug 8 Cs and 5 Ps of the Self

8 Cs and 5 Ps of the Self IFS Therapy Mug

This 8 Cs and 5 Ps of the Self IFS therapy mug may be a nice high quality therapist gift. One side shows the 8 Cs of the Core Self, and the other illustrates the 5 Ps of the Core Self.

Of course, this IFS therapist's mug has the artwork of my original printable Internal Family Systems posters. However, I have redesigned the original artworks to illustrate better the principles of IFS on a mug.

Of course, you can also check a similar version of the art on Etsy as well, along with the 8 Cs and 5 Ps of Self IFS therapy mug.

IFS Therapy Model Mug - Internal Family Systems Mug

IFS Therapist Gift Idea - IFS Therapy Model Explained Mug

This coffee mug shows a newer design of my printable IFS therapy posters. This mug works as a great minimalist, high quality IFS therapist gift idea.

In this case I have redesigned the illustration of the Internal Family Systems model. So you can see the IFS model overview in a neat two-part illustration showing the Managers and Fireighters along with the Exiles. Also, on the other side you will see the artwork of the Core Self according to IFS therapy. Click on the link to see it fully represented on Etsy.

Self-Leadership Mug - Internal Family Systems Therapy Mug

Self-Leadership Mug for IFS Therapists

This stylish and minimalist mug illustrates the self-leadership principle explored in IFS therapy. However, the concept of self-leadership is explored in other therapy modalities. Thus, this is not only a gift for an IFS therapists, but an elegant gift for other professionals as well.

Self-Led Mug Funny Coffee Mug for IFS Therapists

Self-Led Fun Coffee Cup for IFS Therapists

The Self-Led fun coffee cup for therapists has the mirrored Self-Led design on one side. As can be seen, this is a witty remark on the concept of being self-led in Internal Family Systems therapy. A fun gift for IFS therapists who will naturally read one side of the cup when facing a mirror. Click to see this fun coffee cup on Etsy, where it's presented on both sides.

Internal Family Systems Model Explained - IFS Therapy Explained Infographic Poster by CasuallyLuxe. This poster illustrates the Managers, Firefighters and Exiles orbiting around the Core Self. The infographic is complete with explanations for each type of Protector (managers and firefighters) and exiles.

Buy the Internal Family Systems Poster Here

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