IFS, or Internal Family Systems, is a form of psychotherapy that has been gaining traction in recent years due to its unique approach to addiction treatment. Unlike traditional models of addiction treatment that pathologize addiction and view it as a disease, IFS sees addiction as a protective part of us, just like any other protector that is trying to help us in some way.

If you struggle with addiction please keep reading. This is for you.

At the core of IFS is the idea that we all have different “parts” within us, each with its own beliefs, feelings, and motivations. These parts can be controlling, like the part of us that makes us worry in certain situations to try and keep us safe, or they can be a bit more forward in their protection, like the part of us that turns to drugs or alcohol to cope with stress or trauma.

However, IFS doesn’t view these parts of you as inherently bad or flawed.

Yes, it’s worth repeating. The parts that help you with your addiction are not inherently bad or flawed. They are actually trying to help.

Think about it for just a minute. If I told you today that you could no longer have your, insert addiction of choice, what do you feel? Probably super anxious, afraid, and overwhelmed. That is the typical response. However, this part is ultimately trying to help you feel calm because the chaos of the addition is most likely a pain of some kind. Shame, abandonment, loneliness, and fear. It’s there and it’s loud.

The addiction is the smoke, not the fire. The pain is the fire.

“What is addiction, really? It is a sign, a signal, a symptom of distress. It is a language that tells us about a plight that must be understood. – Alice Miller” In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Gabor Mate.

So whether your addiction of choice is actually painkillers or gambling, codependency, alcohol, or spending money or whatever, they are all painkillers in their own way.

And let me tell you beautiful human there is a better way.

This means that IFS therapists don’t try to rid you of your addictive parts or shame them for their behavior. Instead, we encourage you to turn towards your addiction with curiosity and compassion, understanding that the addiction is ultimately trying to meet a need for comfort, escape, or pleasure. We work to identify and understand these parts and their motivations, with the goal of releasing them from their extreme role and integrating them into the larger system of the Self. Because when you get to the root, to the fire, to the pain, you will realize that there were no clear alternatives for helping you feel calm, confident, clear, etc any other way when you first had to endure the pain, shame, isolation, abandonment, etc.

What was protective back then, becomes our prison as adults.

This approach can be incredibly liberating if you have spent years feeling ashamed or powerless in the face of your addiction. By reframing addiction as a protective part of the system, you can begin to see the addictive behavior in a new light and work towards addressing the underlying emotional needs that led to the addiction in the first place.

In addition, IFS can help you develop a deeper understanding of your own internal landscape, and how different parts of themselves interact with each other. This can be especially helpful for clients who struggle with co-occurring disorders, like anxiety or depression, that may be driving their addiction.

For example, a client who turns to alcohol to cope with social anxiety may have an anxious part that is trying to protect them from social rejection, and an addictive part that is seeking comfort and escape from the anxiety. By understanding the motivations behind each part, the client can begin to work towards healing the underlying emotional wounds that are driving their behavior.

By working with your underlying pain I promise you will develop a stronger sense of self and a more resilient internal system, making it easier to resist the urge to turn to addictive behavior in the future.

IFS is not a magic bullet for addiction. Like any form of therapy, it requires time, commitment, and a willingness to engage with difficult emotions and experiences with support to create safety along the way. But it IS possible.

But if you are willing to engage in the process, IFS can be an incredibly powerful tool for addiction recovery. Sentur is your 24/7 tool to help support your journey of self-transformation and recovery.

We see you, this is important.

How has IFS or Sentur helped you in your journey of recovery?