IFS, therapy

IFS (Internal Family Systems) approach to Eating disorders

Eating disorders (ED) are among the most deadly of psychiatric disorders… even when moderate ED symptoms are present a person can feel quite overwhelmed and bound by a complex experience of helplessness, shame and control.

Traditional psychotherapy relies on eliminating and stabilizing behaviors and thoughts … which generally increases symptoms and magnetizes the client to feel even more shame and hopelessness.

IFS therapy is grounded in understanding, compassion and cooperation with all the PARTS that are involved in the ED. Which supports a client to reveal and heal the underlying vulnerabilities of the eating behaviors within a context of grief for the body, acknowledging family dynamics, attachment wounds, extreme parts, larger systems and cultural norms.

All of this via the understanding that ALL PARTS MEAN WELL 💞

If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, please know that you are not alone, and that there is hope for recovery. I want to take a moment and further share some thoughts on how Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy can be an effective tool for healing and recovery.

As someone who has witnessed the devastating impact of eating disorders in my work as a trauma therapist, I can attest to how complicated and difficult EDs can be. They are not simply about food or body image, but rather are often rooted in deep emotional pain and trauma. As such, they require a compassionate and personalized approach to treatment.

That’s where IFS therapy comes in. IFS is a type of therapy that views a person’s internal system as composed of various “parts.” These parts can be in conflict with one another, and may contribute to the development and maintenance of an eating disorder. By identifying and understanding these parts, a person can work towards healing and resolution of the internal conflicts that contribute to their disorder.

One of the things I love about IFS therapy is its focus on self-compassion and self-acceptance. So many people with eating disorders struggle with negative self-talk and self-blame. Through IFS therapy, we can learn to develop a relationship with our “Self” – our true essence that is compassionate, curious, and non-judgmental.

By nurturing this relationship, we learn to approach ourselves and our struggles with kindness and understanding.

IFS therapy is an effective tool for addressing trauma. Trauma can be a significant contributor to the development of an eating disorder, and can also make recovery more challenging. Through IFS therapy, individuals can explore their internal system and identify any parts that may be holding onto past traumatic experiences. The two main camps of parts involved in an ED are about control and restrictions vs those who reject control and seek freedom.

By addressing these parts and helping them heal, people can begin to work through the underlying emotional issues that may be contributing to their struggles.

Another important aspect of EDs is the constant diminishing and minimizing of its impact on health and relationships. These parts tend to block and prevent therapy from progressing yet are critical to understand and to compassionately approach and ‘unburden’.

Another reason I appreciate IFS therapy is its emphasis on mindfulness and emotional regulation. From within.

Eating disorders can be accompanied by intense emotions that can be difficult to manage or even understand. Through IFS therapy, individuals can learn to identify and regulate their emotions in a healthy way. By developing these skills, individuals can reduce the likelihood of engaging in disordered behaviors, and learn to BE WITH rather than ‘manage’ their emotions more effectively.

If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, please know that recovery is possible. IFS therapy is just one of many evidence-based treatments that can help you work towards healing and recovery. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional who can help you explore your options for treatment. You deserve to live a life free from the burden of an eating disorder, and there is hope for healing and recovery.

Aleksandra Staneva, PhD is a certified level 2 IFS psychotherapist in private practice, centered on Women’s Health in Brisbane, Australia. She supports women from all over the world.

📧 horoforwomen@gmail.com

Yours in healing,


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