Internal Family Systems, a Framework for Understanding Personality

Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Research Paper

Degree Name



Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Lynett Henderson Metzger, Psy.D., J.D.

Second Committee Member

Fernand Lubuguin, Ph.D.

Third Committee Member

Daniel Hettleman, Ph.D.


Systems theory, Internal family systems, Clinical psychology, Theoretical orientation, Early career psychologist, Applied psychology

Publication Statement

Copyright held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


For an early career practitioner, learning and implementing new psychological theories can be a daunting task, particularly when clients struggle with pervasive and persistent behaviors that cause them significant distress. It can be time-consuming to search through the literature, gain an understanding of the theory, and then learn how to apply that theory to clinical practice. This process may lead clinicians with less experience and more anxiety around treatment to continue to utilize the interventions they are most familiar with rather than exploring other ways of thinking that may be useful for both client and clinician alike. While this may initially reduce clinicians’ distress it may also impede the development of new skills. In order to address the difficulty inherent in learning to apply new theories, this paper will present the theoretical application of Internal Family Systems theory (IFS) through a case conceptualization relating these concepts to a specific case and a supplemental guidebook summarizing the theory in a concise, stepwise manner. IFS theory integrates many concepts from more universally utilized approaches such as psychodynamic and systems theories and can be useful for conceptualizing and intervening with clients who present with destructive and extreme behaviors (Schwartz, 1995). The guidebook is included in Appendices A-N and will be referenced throughout the paper.


43 pgs

Paper Method

Theoretical Analysis and Synthesis

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