Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Adaptation of the Internal Family Systems Model Among Analytically-Trained Therapists
by Schlief, Michelle L., Psy.D., Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, 2014, 147; 3644242
Abstract (Summary)

There is significant anecdotal evidence of a growing number of psychoanalytically trained practitioners adapting aspects of the internal family systems (IFS) model into their clinical practice. The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of how these therapists make sense of their approach. Data were collected in the form of semi-structured interviews with practitioners and analyzed using constructivist grounded theory. Eleven participants revealed a wide array of experiences that were theoretically conceptualized within a unified framework. Three themes emerged from the data analysis process: (a) therapists' relationships with experiential IFS practice, (b) the therapist-client relationship, and (c) IFS/psychoanalytic hybrid theory. Therapists' relationships with experiential IFS work were found to be diverse and complex, but related to their own experiences in the role of client. Therapists' feelings about the perceived lack of theory underpinning the IFS model were related to their stated relationships with intellectual protector parts. Therapists' feelings about the clinical utility of the therapist-client relationship were complex and tended to deviate from the canonical IFS model in ways that are consistent with the psychodynamic use of the relationship in treatment. Specifically, participants described using the therapist-client relationship to facilitate parts work, many viewed part-to-part relating between therapist and client as providing significant clinical information, and they cited a belief in the importance of using IFS-based psychoeducation and interpretations to help clients gain insight into their internal dynamics. Finally, the ways in which therapists combine the IFS model and psychoanalytical theory into a new, hybrid theory is described, including a view of the unconscious as populated by IFS phenomena, viewing clinical stuckness as related to early psychological trauma that requires experiential work to abate, and the view of the Self-to-part healing relationship in the IFS model through an attachment theory lens. It is proposed that the IFS model traverses divides across the major psychoanalytic models. This may reduce feelings of foreignness among psychodynamic practitioners and create a fertile ground in which hybrid theory can grow. The limitations of this study and implications for practice, training, and further research are discussed.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Waters, Anne
Commitee: Joseph, Lionel, Raniere, David
School: Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology
Department: Clinical Psychology
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-B 76/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Counseling Psychology, Clinical psychology
Keywords: Internal family systems model, Psychoanalysis, Psychodynamic
Publication Number: 3644242
ISBN: 978-1-321-32320-7
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