What is Parts Therapy? 

There are a few methodologies in the practice of psychotherapy that are referred to by the words "parts therapy". In order to clarify, I will summarize these different approaches. 

Internal Family Systems or IFS

IFS or Internal family systems, as developed by Richard C.Schwartz, Ph.D. is a transformative, evidence-based form of psychotherapy that helps people heal trauma by accessing their protective and wounded inner parts. 

These parts are like the members of an inner family system, where some of the parts are forced from their valuable roles into maladaptive roles in order to survive stressful situations. 

This system also recognizes a core self that cannot be damaged and knows how to heal.

Although this technique can be employed without the formal use of hypnosis, it can be extremely effective when used with hypnosis. IFS includes elements of Gestalt chair-work and Inner-child rescue methods that are used in Terry Real Relational Life Therapy work with couples, as well as Regression-based hypnosis sessions such as RTT

This method is very powerful, especially when dealing with trauma. 

book by Gordon Emmerson Ph.D

Ego State Therapy 

"Ego State Therapy" is very similar to IFS, and is based on the idea that a person's psyche is the amalgamation of several distinct people or parts (also referred to as egos), such as the wounded child or a controlling part.

It developed from psychodynamic psychotherapy, and like IFS, uses techniques similar to those applied in family therapy. Originally developed by John G. Watkins and Helen Watkins, psychotherapists who specialized in hypnosis, dissociation, and multiple personalities, it can apply to anyone, as we all have different 'parts' inside of us. 

Gordon Emmerson Ph.D. describes such techniques in his book "Ego State Therapy" while using hypnosis to access the ego states. 

Parts Therapy

Parts Therapy is a method pioneered by Charles Tebbetts and based on the Psychosynthesis approach which was originally developed by Roberto Assagioli M.D . and which was then used extensively by Roy Hunter.

This technique uses hypnosis to identify conflicting parts that are damaging the wellbeing of clients, then helps those parts negotiate with each other through the therapist to bring about a resolution. The focus is to achieve a synthesis, a coming together, of the various parts of an individual's personality into a more cohesive self.

Another major aspect is its affirmation of the spiritual dimension of the person, i.e. the "higher", "deeper", or "transpersonal" self. This higher self is seen as a source of wisdom, inspiration, unconditional love, and the will to meaning in our lives.

Roy Hunter book cover

This method is used during a hypnotic session of some depth, usually after a couple of initial sessions during which other methods are used to strengthen self-esteem and develop trust with the hypnotherapist. This technique is most effective when there is an inner conflict that prevents a client from achieving a goal they consciously want to achieve but which seems to elude them.

If the client feels like they have tried everything but they seem to be defeated by forces almost 'outside of themselves' it is an indication that there may be a subconscious part of them who are resisting change. The way to deal with this part is not to destroy it or deny it but to understand it fully. Usually, these "parts" of ourselves have been created for our own good at some stage in our lives. At the time they served us well to help us cope. They are a natural part of our defence mechanisms. However, as situations change and we develop new agreements have to be made and old agreements revised.

To understand how these 'parts' are created take the example of "Mary".

Something happened to 'Mary' when, as an attractive young teen, she was assaulted by a drunk stranger in the street after a night out. The stranger tried to get her to go home with him against her will. When she rejected him, he lifted her up and tried to carry her home until he fell down. She could then escape.

The experience scared her and made her feel vulnerable and without defence. As a consequence, she 'told herself' she would put on weight. This way, she would never be considered attractive enough to be bothered by strange men and could never be 'carried away' by anyone. Many years have passed and now Mary is overweight and although she wants to reduce her excess weight she cannot do so, because the 'part' of herself that protected her against harm by letting her gain weight is now preventing her from achieving her goal.

We all have parts of ourselves that want different things from us. The part of me that wants to 'just have fun' may want me to stay up all night and dance with my friends on a weeknight while the part of me that is concerned about me doing well at work wants me to stay home and get an early night.

There is nothing strange having different parts wanting different things. It's only when we cannot resolve inner conflicts or when one part seems to sabotage us without us being aware of the motives that we might need expert help to try to shed light on the conflict in order to resolve it.

If you'd like to know more about parts therapy consider reading the book by Roy Hunter "Hypnosis for inner conflict resolution'. This is a book intended for trained hypnotherapists.

In my practice, I use all the above as required. My approach is client-focused rather than framework focused, which means I apply whatever framework seems to fit the specific client I am dealing with rather than trying to impose a framework on a client a priori. 

Check here other techniques used in therapy

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