Karen Guitman

My Approach

Internal Family Systems & Intimacy from the Inside Out

Most often we tend to see ourselves as a unity; from this perspective, when we have struggles or issues, then we might say to ourselves, “I have a problem.” Seeing ourselves as a multiplicity, as beings composed of many ‘parts,’ can allow us to view ourselves as a healthy human being who has parts of themselves that are struggling or experiencing a problem. This difference may seem small, however, it can make the process of working on our struggles seem less overwhelming, since it is not ‘all’ of me that has this problem.

Many therapy modalities view the human being from this perspective. Two such approaches are Internal Family Systems (IFS- Richard Schwartz, PhD) and Intimacy from the Inside Out (IFIO- Toni Herbine-Blank). These empowering perspectives view each human being as capable of becoming an active and fully involved part of their own healing journey, because within each of us, in addition to our parts, is also a wise core, a ‘Self.’ The Self is the undamaged, unburdened core of our being that can show compassion and care for all our parts and help us achieve and maintain inner balance and harmony.

Many practices recognize this part of ourselves. For instance, in mindfulness meditation, the focus is on increasing our awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations and of being able to focus our attention on a single thing – usually the breath. This practice is in fact strengthening our Self, which begins to become more aware of what is going on inside of us.

The next step...

IFS and IFIO take this process a step further. The Self, once it is strong and able to be aware of our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations, is then able to understand from which parts of ourselves these originate. The Self then begins the healing journey which involves a deep listening to each part’s experiences, forming new attachments to the Self which is always available and then the unburdening of anything that is no longer serving us, including deep wounds and outdated beliefs. This process promotes and establishes a more permanent peacefulness and calm to our inner system.

Additionally, in IFIO, this ‘Self’ allows couples to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and one another, which enables them to learn to speak to one another from their hearts, even when conversations are difficult, and to maintain that inner calm even when their partner is temporarily unavailable. IFS and IFIO, through differentiation and internal healing improve not only your inner landscape but your outer one as well. As you heal internally, your responses to yourself and others change, transforming your relationship to yourself, others, and your life. 

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