Adult Health with Nancy Sowell
Nancy Sowell is an IFS Senior Trainer, consultant, and therapist who teaches frequently in Europe and the US. She is a teaching associate at Harvard Medical School where she has been a clinical supervisor for over 20 years. She has pursued training from many therapeutic schools of thought and in various therapeutic techniques, such as IFS, hypnosis, biofeedback, EMDR and mindfulness meditation. She integrates mindful awareness of the body, emotions, thoughts, and deeply held beliefs, as they influence our mood, vitality, behavior, relationships and health. Nancy is the co-creator of the IFS program and research study with rheumatoid arthritis patients that enabled IFS to be certified as an evidence-based program and practice.
In this Talk, Nancy's chapter The Internal Family System and Adult Health: Changing the Course of Chronic Illness, on Internal Family Systems Therapy: New Dimensionsis under analysis.
Episode Full Transcription
Today on IFS Talks, we are speaking with Nancy Sowell. Nancy Sowell is an IFS, senior trainer, consultant and therapist who teaches frequently in Europe and the US. She's a teaching associate at Harvard Medical School, where she has been a clinical supervisor for over 20 years. She has pursued training from many therapeutic schools of thought and in various therapeutic techniques such as IFS, hypnosis, biofeedback, EMDR and mindfulness meditation. She integrates mindful awareness of the body, emotions, thoughts and deeply held beliefs as they influence our mood, vitality, behavior, relationships and health. Nancy is the cocreator of the IFS program and research study with rheumatoid arthritis patients that enabled IFS to be certified as an evidence-based program and practice. Thank you so much for all your work, Nancy, and for being here speaking with us today.
Nancy Sowell: Well, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you. I appreciate it.
Aníbal Henriques: Nancy, thanks much for willing to sit with us and have this conversation. How is it for you, Nancy, when you hear this bio? What parts come up?
Nancy: What parts come up? I guess a part that first feels a little bit shy and a part that wonders if it's too much, you know. I'm not fond of self-promotion. I've got parts that have things to say about that.
Aníbal: But you have been doing a lot these two decades for the IFS trainings and communities. Nancy, could you tell us, please, about your journey into the mental health profession? Was there something in your personal life that was determinant for you to become a psychotherapist?
Nancy: Well, that's an interesting question. My road to becoming a therapist was personal. I was a teacher for young children, and I ran programs for children and their parents and then I had my own children. And I think through some dark times in my life I got into my own therapy and I learned so much from that process that I decided to take what I knew, the interest that I had in young children and understanding their development and go back to graduate school because I wanted to work with people at a deeper level and not just in...I wanted to help people heal. I think that's it. In the way that I had experienced healing myself personally and I wanted to work with other people in that process. And that's how I got into psychotherapy and decided to go back for more training and switch from teaching and working with families and young children to working with people that were interested in a healing process.
Tisha: What were your early days of practice in psychotherapy like? What population did you work with?
Nancy: Well, my first job out...Well, during graduate school, I worked for a human service department in the town where I live, which is in Falmouth, Massachusetts, in the US. And I had a very broad experience in working with people of all ages. I worked with families. I worked with organizations doing more macro practice. And then once I graduated, I started working with an outpatient mental health center that specialized in working with people who were healing from substance abuse and particularly their families. And I stayed there for six years. But I also started a private practice while I was there. And I was especially interested in people's early trauma as it influenced the decisions they were making in their lives and as it was playing out in their relationships. And I did a lot of group work there and a lot of family were couples work in a lot of individual work. And then I just kept learning and growing as a therapist, as a person, and kept up with my own work. And got introduced to IFS eventually.
Tisha: How did that happen? How did you meet the model?
Nancy: Well, Dick had come to Boston and I had a mentor there that had been my teacher in hypnosis and also my first mentor in behavioral medicine, a guy named Dan Brown, who's very well known in the Boston area. And I ended up doing a program in hypnosis with Dan Brown and which I loved doing hypnosis. And Dan and Bessel van der Kolk had brought Dick to the Boston area. And I met him at a meeting for a program called NESTTD, the New England Society for the Treatment of Trauma and Dissociation. And I met Dick there. And then the next thing I did was...Because I live on Cape Cod. He does this Cape Cod Institute talk. It's like a weeklong introductory training every year. And so, I went to that thinking, oh, well, that will be enough. But I just fell in love with the model. I thought Dick was great and I ended up signing up for the Kripalu personal retreat and then another retreat in Mexico, which I ended up going to every year for about a decade and ended up being on the staff there. But anyway, so it just took off from there. I just took to it like a fish to water and I couldn't get enough.
Tisha: Do you remember what it was about, the model initially that hooked you?
Nancy: Yes, I do. It was the concept of relationship and the belief that we all have a Self, because I had experienced that, but I had never heard anybody in therapeutic circles talk about it so directly. And I also felt like there was an acknowledgement and an awareness of Self-Leadership that I had experienced with people, but I didn't have a name for it. And so, it felt like Dick was putting into words something that I knew deeply in my bones, but I didn't have a language to describe. And it was something that I felt from the time I was a little girl. So, I just really loved it. That really spoke to me and then also just watching him work, I thought it was amazing to watch someone really, in a very short period of time, experience healing in that internal relationship.
Aníbal: Yes, it's really amazing. Nancy, and did you trained or practiced in other modalities before you get across with the IFS?
Nancy: Yes. Well, I had from the externship program that I did with Dan Brown in hypnosis. It was a combination of hypnosis and behavioral medicine. Behavioral medicine pays a lot of attention to the body, the integration of the body and the mind. And there's a great awareness of how the mind affects health. And I learned a lot about that and decided to do this follow up program through the Cambridge Health Alliance. They had a behavioral medicine program there for licensed psychotherapists. So, I decided to do this training program at the Cambridge Health Alliance, which is one of the Harvard Medical School teaching hospitals. And there I studied many different things, psychodynamic thinking and formulation and cognitive-behavioral therapy. And they also worked at a very integrative level, so integrating many different schools of thought. So, I felt like I was really someplace where I could learn what was most important to me. And we did a lot of...I had also, in the meantime, I had been studying mindfulness meditation for many years on my own. Well, with the Dartmouth Study Group here in Falmouth. And then they were actually using John Kabat-Zinn's Protocol for Pain Management and other things. And so, I started working with medical patients back then. And that was before I learned IFS. That was many years before I learned IFS.
Aníbal: Wonderful. And Nancy, did IFS fit well with all this background of yours?
Nancy: Yes, it does very much. And even my background in working with children and also when I was working with children, I was very interested in environmental education, because for me as a child, the environment had been such a safe and healing place, and I began to understand more and more about that and yes, so all of those things started to get integrated into my clinical work, especially with hypnosis and guided meditations and mindfulness meditation and in all the group work that I'd been doing.
Aníbal: Yes, it makes sense. So that was the 90s, I believe, when you met Dick and this model. And back then, the trainings were not the same way they are now. Right?
Nancy: I actually met Dick in the early 2000s and it was a little bit more structured by then, but not as much, certainly not, I've seen it evolve over the years and it's much more structured now and much more evolved and it continues to evolve.
Tisha: Will you describe how you started on the path to becoming a Lead trainer?
Nancy: Well, because I fell so in love with IFS, I did everything that came down the pike. I started going to really every program that came up in Massachusetts I went to. And I started being a Program Assistant after I did my Level 1 training and right after my Level 2 training. Then I started to become a Program Assistant and then I was a Program Assistant for many years. At that point, you couldn't really move up in the organization unless you were made an Assistant Trainer and they didn't need any more Assistant Trainers. So, there was sort of a bottleneck. So, I just became a very experienced Program Assistant. And actually, there are many people in this position, I think, around the country and in Europe now.
Aníbal: Yes, there are.
Nancy: And so, I'm an advocate actually for helping people move up. But anyway, my path was to just keep going. And I also loved doing the trainings in Europe. So, I worked in Sweden and Ireland and I just completely enjoyed it. And I kept going back and back and back for all these different trainings. And then eventually there was a spot for me, and I was made an Assistant Trainer and I very quickly became a co-Lead Trainer and a solo Lead Trainer, and that over the years I've been doing it enough that now I'm a Senior Trainer.
Nancy: Yes, that was the path. And all the while, of course, doing my own inner work and my education has been as much personal as it has been educational. So, I used everything that I learned personally, gets incorporated into my knowledge of using the model.
Tisha: It sounds like IFS has really changed your life.
Nancy: It definitely has changed my life. The other thing that happened was I got sick in there. I got sick and I had a disease called psoriatic arthritis, which is very, very similar to rheumatoid arthritis. And it affects people who have psoriasis, which I had almost my whole life from the time I was a little girl...
Nancy: Which now I believe was very much from early dysregulation in my autonomic nervous system. And so, I got well from traditional medical interventions, but I could not get off the medications that I was on. And then once I started using IFS, I got off the medications and I went into complete remission. So, that's part of how I got into using IFS for, you know, incorporating it into my behavioral medicine practice, working with medical patients. I truly believe that people have the capacity to heal, even if whatever they have is something that is not going to be cured. I do make this distinction between healing and cure, and I think everybody can heal.
Aníbal: So interesting. So, Nancy, you really came into this special interest on IFS and adult health, as you say in your chapter, out of your own desperation?
Nancy: Yes, that's right. Out of my own desperation and my desire to really feel like I had more freedom in my life and calm. I wanted more calm and less fear. I think that was it. And that I could feel my health changing with a reduction in fear. And what I say fear, I mean fear like all of the stress that we live with and all of those worries we have that we might not even be consciously aware of, that are, I think, more social in nature than physical. But of course, some of them are physical. But I think most of the fears in at least in the Western world in 2020 are more social and societal fears.
Aníbal: Yes, they are. Nancy, in this chapter that you published in 2013 in this book called The New Dimensions, the chapter titled strongly suggests that our parts play or can play a role or a part in our health. And in the field of health psychology, we usually see more about how much people can or cannot accept illness or how do we cope and deal with illness or how do we adhere to the healing processes. So, this is quite new stuff in the field of health psychology. We are talking of how we in IFS language, our parts trigger, maintain and exacerbate symptoms and illness. So, this is really, really new. Could you tell us more about this innovative approach?
Nancy: Well, basically, the way that I think about it is that our parts carry burdens from whatever negative experiences we've had in our lives and those burdens can cause health problems and from a variety of what I think of as avenues. And some of the way that they impact our health can be very direct because parts will use whatever they can use to do their job. And if they're a protector, their job is to keep our pain out of our conscious awareness and to minimize the negative effect of whatever pain or whatever burdens of pain we're carrying.
But some of the ways that parts do that will very directly harm our health. And their purpose isn't to harm our health necessarily, but they may inadvertently harm our health. An example might be firefighters that take on roles such as compulsive overeating or smoking or what I think of as health risk behaviors. That's a pretty direct way that they're not purposefully trying to harm our health, but that they are inadvertently doing that in a very direct way. There's a direct correlation between what they use to help us with one problem, which would be the underlying burden of pain, but causing another problem, such as, you know, contributing to emphysema or COPD and things like that.
But there are also parts that will use the symptoms to actually do their job. And they might use the symptoms, for instance, to have more influence in a polarization. Like an example might be from actually the rheumatoid arthritis study. This is very frequent. It's not just relevant to rheumatoid arthritis, people with rheumatoid arthritis, because many, many people have this polarization. But a polarization between, say, a stoic manager that pushes through pain and a part that advocates for self-care or is feeling resentful of caretaking other people or of all the work that the other part is promoting. So, this polarization between working really, really hard and being really, really good and a part that says "hey, what about my needs? All these other people are getting all this stuff that I'm doing for them. And I need some, we need some of this in here." And that polarization, sometimes a part will use the symptoms to actually shut down that stoic manager so that there's more balance in the system between overwork and...
Aníbal: Make sense, yes.
Nancy: Yes, just between overwork and the need for self-care. So that's an example of how a part might directly affect the symptoms.
Tisha: It's such a fascinating frontier, right? To work with health issues, with IFS. I remember practicing with someone who had...She had really severe IBS. And at one point I was like "We should just talk to this like a part." And it revealed that when she was growing up, the only room in her house that was safe, that had a lock on it, was the bathroom. And her brother was so violent and like all of a sudden, she was able to see this chronic health condition as a hero, almost, as the thing that gave her a chance to be safe for a little while.
Tisha: So, it's such an admirable work that you're doing, just kind of bringing this synthesis of health and IFS together. Sometimes the body gets left behind with psychotherapy.
Nancy: It does, yes. And what you're describing is a story that I've heard before.
Tisha: Is that right?
Nancy: It is, yes. And I think about the autonomic nervous system and our stress response system as actually when people are living with dysregulation, there can be a lot of distress in the bowel and in the gut, especially if they had early trauma because little kids are trapped. They are. And they can feel held hostage like I'm sure your client probably felt like she was trapped there. And when you're trapped and you feel powerless, there's a branch of the parasympathetic nervous system called the dorsal vagal system, which has a great impact on our gut and on our intestines. And so, many people that I've treated with IBS have early trauma. And when we work with those parts, we do begin to see a change. So, you know, I never know how much parts are involved until we go inside and find out, but they definitely, working with them and reducing the fear, reducing that internal dysregulation can really help with symptoms. But I appreciate that story that you're telling. I'm so glad that that person found you.
Tisha: Thank you. It was an illuminating session for both of us.
Aníbal: Nancy, you also say in your chapter that your framework for applying IFS with medical symptoms includes identifying and checking for parts who trigger or exacerbate symptoms, parts who maintain symptoms, parts who know something about improving or healing symptoms, parts who are fearful of improving symptoms and being well and parts who want to die. So, so many parts playing a role in our health. Why do they do that? I mean, their main purpose is to call our attention. Could you tell us more about this?
Nancy: So parts that want to die, for instance, if they know that there is a way out of the pain that doesn't involve death, then and if they have hope that there is a way out of the pain, then they don't need to be triggering symptoms that actually can cause death. And they don't need to be involved in kind of a vision of the way out of pain to the death. They can actually begin to have hope and when they can hold a vision that change is possible and that life is more than pain, then it might be that we see a shift in the ways that they might be contributing to a health problem.
But some of this, what's hard to sort out is that some of this is direct, like there might be a part that wants to die and that's what it's going for. And sometimes it's that a part is so burdened from the past that it doesn't have hope about life being better. And there's so much dysregulation that there's this natural sort of response between what's going on in the autonomic nervous system and the ripple effect through the body that it actually does contribute to the symptoms and to disease. I mean, there's a reason why the ACE study, the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study found, and all of the research that it has spawned, has found such consistent correlations between early trauma and adult disease. And that is a direct correlation. The more trauma, the higher the likelihood that someone is going to have chronic non-communicable diseases in adulthood. And it's because of that ripple effect that burdens have in our internal systems and that so when we can find the parts that are either directly or indirectly affecting health, then we can actually help them heal. And that can put people on a healing path and a path of hope because IFS is all about hope and it's also about relationship. Now, I'm guessing the two of you and anybody who's listening knows that that moment when a part is aware that they are not alone inside, that there is a calm, kind presence that they can turn to that can help them. That is a very powerful moment in IFS therapy. To me, that's one of the most powerful moments in the therapy. And I emphasize this a lot when I'm teaching IFS because it's profound to realize that there is someone inside to turn to. And what I always say to my clients and to my students is that it's not mutually exclusive either. You get to have that internal connection inside between Self and parts and you get to have it outside with other people. And when people can heal from their early trauma and feel safe enough to create those kinds of connections out in the world and create those connections inside with themselves and with their Self, with between their Self and parts, then that to me is the most healing situation that someone can be in.
Nancy: So. I don't know if there's more you want me to explain about the ways, the many ways that parts can influence health, but part of it is just because of the burdens that they carry or because of the jobs that they take on to deal with the burdens that exiles are carrying. And some of those jobs are very costly. You know, anybody that's doing IFS therapy knows that when you're working with protectors, some of the jobs they take on can come at a very high cost to one's life and one's relationships, like, for instance, people who have burdens of not feeling safe. They're not only caring that lack of safety within their body and their physiological symptoms they're carrying that lack of safety out into their relationships in the world. And if you can help those parts feel safer because there's someone at home inside, and feel safer in the therapeutic relationship so that they can begin to connect with other people and realize that they have a capacity for discerning safe people from unsafe people and that their autonomic nervous system isn't so dysregulated that everyone feels unsafe anymore, than they can begin to create community for themselves and life becomes much easier and much more fulfilling. So I do believe that relationship inside and outside has placed an enormous role in healing and that when we find the parts that had taken on jobs under the worst of circumstances in our life and release them from those burdens, things really do begin to move into healing psychologically and physically.
Aníbal: Beautiful. Nancy, you just stress out the strong connection between trauma and heal.
Nancy: I do.
Aníbal: And also, you are talking on healing. Is that really possible, the healing? Or the healing you talk is it a cure? Or do you differentiate between heal and cure?
Nancy: So, in my mind, a cure is something that can happen as we find our Self and our parts, and they enter that healing relationship. And to me, that's a journey when we really get that we have a Self inside that is undamaged. And sometimes it's hard for people to even believe that because they feel so damaged. But once they realize that they do have an undamaged Self inside that is accessible and they experience the connection between their Self and their parts and are on that journey, in the development of that relationship, that's what I consider healing, because it's the beginning of someone seeing themselves as more than their pain, as more than their negative experiences. They realize that they have, that they are full of life and light and compassion, confidence and things that maybe have been previously inaccessible to them...
Aníbal: And that they are much more than a part.
Nancy: Yes, much more than their burdens. They become much more than their burdens.
Aníbal: Yes, totally.
Nancy: And they have, they learn a path through IFS therapy and the personal work that they do for healing the burdens. Because people often identify with their burdens. They feel like they are the burden. I mean, that's the nature of shame. So, when you can heal that kind of shame attached to identity and that kind of pain attached to identity, then that's what I'm calling healing. And even in like a medical, when someone has a medical problem, when they realize that they are, that they can actually help the parts that are afraid of the disease or the symptoms or afraid in general in the world, that's also what I'm calling healing, because calm and self-compassion increase at that point and possibility and hope opens. And that's very healing. And cure, in my mind, happens in the context of healing. It's not something that can be guaranteed, and I would never guarantee that, but it is something that happens. I myself experienced that with my own disease. I really feel like I do not have psoriatic arthritis anymore. I don't get even a little ache when it gets rainy outside like I used to. I just never experienced symptoms. It feels like it's gone.
Nancy: But not everybody experiences that. That took a long time. That took years for that to happen, for it to be completely gone. But now it is.
Aníbal: It makes sense, yes.
Nancy: But I believe that that would not have happened had I not entered a state of healing between myself and my parts and a healing between myself and the rest of the world, you know, where I felt less anxious, less afraid, where I could raise my hand and speak publicly, where before in my life I was too afraid to do that. I couldn't be all that I am until I could free my parts from the fear that they carried and the pain that they carried.
Tisha: I'm hearing you say that healing incorporate social and cultural aspects as well.
Nancy: Yes, it is healing to me is a path that opens up. Yes, and it's a path that evolves over time.
Aníbal: So, Nancy, it looks like that to you healing is much more a process and eventually a long process?
Nancy: That's right, I see it that way and that it incorporates many aspects of who we are and many aspects of our lives and with particular emphasis in my mind on relationship, internal and external relationship, because I see us, we're primates and mammals and we are relationally oriented. And if we're living apart in isolation because of fear that that actually...I think has a negative effect on our health.
Aníbal: Wonderful, Nancy. May I quote Dick? Dick says in his recent book, IFS Therapy, Second Edition, he writes as the title, “If parts started, they can often stop it.” And he says, in general “parts can give the client a headache, stomach pain, muscle clenching, back pain, nausea, exhaustion, the urge to sleep, a pounding heart, chills, numb hands and feet and much more. They can also send intrusive thoughts and images into the client's consciousness that cause physical responses. But when we ask them to be direct about their wants and needs, rather than hurting the client physically or taking him out mentally and when they believe we will pay attention to their concerns if they stop, dramatic shifts can take place.” Would you like to comment on this, Nancy?
Nancy: Oh, I completely agree with that. And that refers to parts that are directly and consciously, um, the part itself is using the symptoms or triggering the symptoms. That that goes back to what I said, when parts will use the symptoms to do their job. So, parts will use whatever they can to do their job to help us. And it's not because they're bad parts. It's because they're trying to help us in whatever way they can find. And when we can help someone connect with a part that's doing that, we can help them to find out why the part is doing that and show the part another way. That's why in IFS therapy we talk about being hope merchants, merchants of hope. So we offer the part hope that there is another way that isn't costly and that we can help make their job much easier if they will allow us to go to the exile that they're protecting and heal it so that they don't have to keep using the symptoms to do whatever job it is they're trying to do and free them from being locked into that extreme role. And parts are interested in that, even though they might be skeptical, and they need to experience it rather than just be told about it. So, I completely agree with that. And it's something that is very important for anybody that wants to be working with helping people with medical problems...
Aníbal: Makes sense.
Nancy: To find the parts that might be triggering the symptoms or using the symptoms either directly or inadvertently and offer them hope and an alternative which is basically healing the underlying pain and releasing the bird. And so, they're not locked into that same role.
Aníbal: May I go on and quote again Dick?
Aníbal: Same recent book. This time commenting on your rheumatoid arthritis study that you co-authored with a central role I believe in it. And Dick wrote "as the rheumatoid arthritis study demonstrated, IFS can help with physical illness. Parts can often stop the physical symptoms they initiate. Additionally, some parts can help with healing. Therefore, hope is warranted on this topic. Nevertheless, we recommend a mindful approach with clients. Some will have the experience of being blamed for their illness by family, friends or treaters. And many will be hearing a lot of internal blame. When medicine is not curious about the inner system and its burdens would be healers run the risk of missing the message because they are trying to kill the messenger? In IFS, we invite the messenger and explore physical illness the way we always do, by asking. So, this is about the way you were describing your approach to health, Nancy. So, again, do you want to comment on this?
Nancy: Well, I would say that in IFS, we find the deeper we go, the more we find that there is no one to blame and that every part of us has a positive intention. And I believe that with every fiber of my being. I've never met a part that didn't have a positive intention, even when it was a part that seemed frightening or aggressive in some way. That's just a very dedicated part that's trying to do a job, an unpopular job. And once you hear the story of the part, you find out that there really is no one to blame. So, I love that Longfellow quote, which you two probably have heard "If you could read the secret history of your enemy, you would find sorrow and suffering enough to transform all hostility." And that's my experience with IFS. Every part I've ever met, every story I've ever heard from a part has let me know that every part has good intentions.
Aníbal: Yes, exactly.
Nancy: And when you befriend them, that befriending is the beginning of healing.
Tisha: Nancy, you have accomplished so much as a psychotherapist as an IFS trainer with your contributions to IFS and health and your work with the rheumatoid arthritis study. Do you have any ambitions as to what's next? Are you involved in a new project or is there something that you'd like to see yourself accomplish?
Nancy: Well, I am in at the moment I'm writing a book on IFS and early trauma and health, so I want to finish that book. I had to take a break from it because I was doing the Continuity program for the IFS Institute, which is just about done now. So, my plan is to get back to the book. And so, I want to finish that because I really want there to be...And it's a manual. So, I want people to have a manual that they can use for working with patients and working with themselves around using IFS to help heal physical disease. So that's one thing.
Aníbal: And that one thing is a huge one.
Nancy: It is a huge....
Aníbal: It is.
Nancy: That's a huge thing. Because everybody asks me, you know, is there a manual? And there isn't a clear manual. So, I'm creating the clear manual right now. And that's my biggest ambition. And then once I do that, I don't know. You know, I'm not, I'm somebody that knows that no matter what I plan, it never goes exactly the way I planned because life just evolves. It's I think John Lennon said "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans."
Aníbal: Yes, I truly believe that too.
Nancy: I really believe that. So that's what will come of that. But I'm looking forward to it. I think I might want to do more writing, but I don't know, we'll see. It's sort of a wonderful and torturous process for me.
Aníbal: I can relate to that. You will sit for long, long periods.
Nancy: Yes, that's for sure. Yes. That's my next project between now and the summer. I'm hoping to finish it. I purposefully didn't schedule another training until October, so for sure I get it done now.
Tisha: Pressure's on.
Nancy: Yes. It's about half, it's maybe more than halfway done.
Tisha: Are you teaching any level 2's on IFS and health specifically?
Nancy: You know, it's tricky because in order to make it a Level 2, I have to submit a proposal and in order to submit a proposal, I have to stop my other projects. And so, I'm not ready to do that. So, I think I probably I mean, the two big interests that I have right now that are really near and dear to me are IFS and health. And also, IFS and attachment wounding. And I think that comes from...That grew out of the IFS and health and also out of my own personal work. But I really would like to do more work on IFS and attachment. I don't know whether I'll make those official Level 2s, but I will continue to teach them as workshops because people just need more IFS, whether it's an official level 2 or whether it's a workshop. But maybe one of these days I'll turn that into an official level 2. So, I have done...In a deepening and expanding workshops there's a little leeway to incorporate your own work. So, I've done that. I kind of include more about IFS in health in those, but I haven't turned it into an official level 2, but I actually am doing it as workshops. So, one of these days...
Tisha: These topics sound great. We look forward to it.
Nancy: Thank you.
Aníbal: And we are planning together a workshop on IFS and health for 2021. I hope, Nancy, that we can keep this project alive.
Nancy: Yes. Well, I'm planning on it. If you're planning on it then I would say it's alive.
Aníbal: Yes, it's alive. Nancy, regarding the future, where do you see the growing edges for the IFS model community in the future?
Nancy: Oh, I think it's probably it's to create trainings, to really grow the international trainings and I believe, and I've been working on this, is that people from their own countries in their own language need to become trainers. So, I think that that's actually one of the next things that needs to happen. And that's started, I think that IFS can be expanded into many spheres beyond psychotherapy as well. Like, I think IFS should actually be brought into the field of health...
Aníbal: Of course.
Nancy: Which has already started. That started with the rheumatoid arthritis study. And I'd like to see that keep going. But I see it in many fields. You know, people are bringing it into schools, and I think it needs to keep going. I would like to see everybody think about there...I'd like to see this IFS model of the mind as us having multiple parts of our personality and every single person on the planet having a Self. I would love to see that become universal.
Aníbal: That would be beautiful.
Nancy: That we...Yes, I mean, that's a pretty big ambition, but that's where I'd like to see it go. Because it helps so much to realize that it's not all of me, it's part of me and there's other parts of me. And when I make decisions or lead my life, I don't want to betray any of my parts. I want to listen to all of them. And I want them to know that I'm here with them and they're not alone and everything comes down and that happens.
Aníbal: Beautifully said.
Nancy: Life feels much easier.
Aníbal: Totally. And, Nancy, you will keep working on these empirical supported studies for the effectiveness of IFS?
Nancy: I will. You know, one of the things that I might add, it depends on how my life evolves, like I said. But one of the things that I would like to do, another research project. That was a pretty big research project I was working on that I thought it would take a year. But it turns out with a big research project, it takes more than a year and it takes a lot of time and dedication. And I'd like to do another one maybe after I finish my book.
Aníbal: That's my best hope also, Nancy, that we can sit again for another episode, maybe this time with a focus on this study of yours, the 2013 study on rheumatoid arthritis or any other topic. By now, just thank you so much for having us. It was a joy to be here with you and Tisha. And I hope we can keep meeting and sharing this model, our work and our lives.
Nancy: Thank you very much. It's been a pleasure.
Tisha: This was an IFS Talks episode, an audio series to deepen connections with the internal family systems model through conversations with lead trainers, authors, practitioners and users.
Recorded 13th March 2020
Transcript Edition: Carolina Abreu