This is an IFS Talk with Cece Sykes, an IFS Senior Trainer, US and international. Cece has Contributed to Levels 1 and 2 IFS training manuals and teaches L1 as well as L2 Trauma and Addiction. Cece has over thirty years of clinical experience working with individuals, couples and families, specializing in work with the effects of trauma and addiction. Her chapter on compassionate approaches to addictive process appears in IFS: Innovations and Elaborations. Cece also has special interests in spiritual practices intersecting with therapy and in the impact of psychotherapy upon the life of the therapist and she lectures, consults and leads workshops on all of these topics. Cece lives and works in the city of Chicago.

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This is IFS Talks, an audio series to deepen connections with the Internal Family Systems model through conversations with lead trainers, authors, practitioners and users.


Today we're interviewing and talking to Cece Sykes, a licensed clinical social worker and an IFS senior trainer in the US and internationally. She has contributed to levels one and two IFS training manuals and teaches level one, as well as level two on trauma and addiction. Cece has over 30 years of clinical experience working with individuals, couples, and families, specializing in the work with the effects of trauma and addiction. Her chapter on compassionate approaches to the addictive process appears in IFS Innovations and Elaborations. Cece also has special interests in spiritual practices, intersecting with therapy and on the impact of psychotherapy upon the life of the therapist. She lectures, consults and leads workshops on all of these topics. Cece currently lives and works in the city of Chicago.


Tisha Shull: Thank you, Cece, for having us and for being willing to be part of this series of Talks on Internal Family Systems.


Cece Sykes: Thank you for the invitation.


Aníbal Henriques: Thank you, Cece. How is it for you to listen to this bio?


Cece: Good question. I think a part of me feels proud, actually, of the work I've done. Part of me feels old.  Saw my first client in 1978. So...


Aníbal: It’s more like experienced.


Cece: Yeah, but I think everything that I've been done has been, I like to approach things, you know, I'm always learning, I guess I would say. So, still I'm learning when I'm teaching. Something new will probably come to me in our conversation today, you know, how it is. So, I also think that this is an accumulation of being exposed to so many people who I've learned from. My clients, but also all the therapists I've worked with over the years and all the teaching situations, it's a challenge. And so, I think everything I have essentially is also in a way given to me.


Aníbal: So, you enjoy the journey very much, I see. So, Cece, could you please tell us a bit about your journey into the mental health profession? Was there something in your personal life that was determinant for you becoming a psychotherapist?


Cece: You know, I majored in social work. At 18 I chose that as my major for college when I was in high school, it was in the early seventies. It was a lot going on late sixties, early seventies in the United States and in Europe too, I think, around student demonstrations, the war, those kinds of things and the social workers at my school were very community involved, very...We would call it progressive. One was white, one was black, there were two women, they were good friends. I thought, I just liked the whole picture of that. I didn't have words for it. I just liked the idea of the sort of progressive thinking and trying to make change in the world, I think was how I was thinking about it. And I also liked just even when I talked to my high school counselor about, you know, I don't know, like classes, and then I thought, Oh, I like this idea of talking to people. So, then I would, I majored in it and stayed in it my whole life. So, you know, my family, if you want to go family systems, I'm the oldest of six kids and depressed mom, overwhelmed mom, overwhelmed parents. I was very much a parentified child. So that role of making myself available was always in my life. And so, it was very consistent with being a therapist.


Aníbal: It was a good training.


Tisha: It always felt like a good fit.


Cece: Yeah. It was. There was no stretch. You were a therapist and you were poor. I go, yeah. I was like, I remember.


This is IFS Talks and audio series to deepen connections with the Internal Family Systems model through conversations with lead trainers, authors, practitioners, and users.


Tisha: I'm curious about your work before you met IFS.


Cece: Right.


Tisha: What was that part of your clinical work...


Cece: I actually was a therapist for 20 years before I got to IFS training and now it's 20 years since. What I started doing was very early on I worked in community mental health, you know, they kind of throw young people in, but I worked with adolescents and their families in a community mental health center, but right away, I heard someone speak on family systems and the idea of generational issues and boundaries and how the individual is very impacted by the context of their family. And that made a huge impact on me. So, I then specifically got trained in family therapy and family systems thinking. And in specific, I was drawn to a couple of women that I'd heard speak about working with physical and sexual abuse cases and we're changing family therapy. It was just very meaningful to me to think about how even the systemic issues of how abuse happens in families. So, I ended up taking a job. It was a private organization, but they worked with the department of children, family services, which is the protective services arm of the government. And that's the way it works in all the States in the U S. And so, I was doing therapy with families where the parents had been physically or sexually abusive to their children or stepchildren, or the children in their care, or who had lost their children through neglect. And we were very progressive in the sense that I would go do home visits in rough neighborhoods and try to do therapy in their homes. And we would come into the offices and they were very, very intense cases, but I really appreciated it and loved it. Most parents, their parents are very impacted of course, by the context of their lives, by poverty, by addiction, by no support from their own family, they grew up traumatized really. So, I just learned how traumatized these parents were and now the trauma was going on into the next generation. So, as a family therapist, how we could work with this family to create safety, you know, to create something that they never had. Well, how do you create that when you don't know it? So, I really loved family therapy and systems thinking because it's a resilience based. It's based on finding the strength of their parents, finding each of their strengths and helping a mother and a father. You know, now families have a broader definition, but of helping the two parents work together to the benefit of the child, they had learned such terrible and abusive patterns, emotionally abusive patterns, much less what they, you know, much less the physical abuse. So, always very poignant stories. It's never, things are never what they seem. You know, there's always a story for the parent. It was very touching work and, you know, getting kids reunited with families or recreating safety in a home is a really satisfying thing. And at the same time, while I'm working with adult survivors and we're running groups for women who are adults survivors, I was working with young men, some boys who were abused by their scout leader and then we did our family. We got all the parents in for a family group with them because all the parents had been impacted by their boys experiencing this. So, it was very, very interesting and impactful work. And, and at the same time, I would say, looking back at some of the individual interest psychic dynamics of some of the survivors, that wasn't the big focus of family therapists. You know, we were trying to change the context and create a safe environment, which, you know, which we were often able to do. And that doesn't mean of course, creating safety and having healthy dialogues and meaningful dialogues and healing dialogues between parents and children is healing. But there's more around some of those individual dynamics that I would include now. Having said that, bringing whole families in together, doing family meetings, bringing multi-families together over a larger event, these are hugely healing things also. So, that it's all healing, I guess. But I learned, I think, how to be a therapist from survivors of sexual abuse who are very vigilant in making sure they're taken care of, and they have that never again part we talk about in IFS. These never again managers. And I can still remember a woman coming in and I was about 15 minutes late to take her in. She was waiting in the waiting area and I brought her into my office, you know, cause a lot of my cases are a kind of crisis sessions. Anyway, I brought her in late and she was livid. She was so enraged with me and she talked about how she had left work early and it was very hard for her. And she got in check and she was on time. And here I am seeing her 15 minutes late and I could see that the, in IFS, we call it the exile, but behind that angry firefighter that felt not cared about and not appreciated for what she had done. So, you know, even though I didn't know the model at that time, I, you know, she taught me, I need to speak to what she is feeling on the inside, which is not cared about and not important. And so, I really...the impact of my behavior and how it impacted the belief of her exile about being not important or being taken advantage of, both of which had happened to her life many, many times. So I really learned how to be a therapist and listen to what we would call in IFS, the exiles, and the belief of the exiles and I think that the survivors who are so vigilant, teach me that, you know, they teach me, if they see my parts and if I'm in a part, they're going to tell me “are you angry with me, Cece? You sound angry.” I'm like “Am I angry?” You know, I have to think “Am I angry? Do I sound angry? Okay, tell me about that. Okay.” You know, so I think that that relational piece it's so important when you're healing from abuse. So much of that was taught to me by people who are vigilant about being safe.


Aníbal: It looks like IFS comes in a very natural way to you.


Cece: I think so. You know, because even back in those times we talked about the inner child that had this sort of...and a lot of addictions work and, you know, a lot of family therapy work, we talked about the roles in the family and also just the inner child inside each person. So, we see that in a more complex way now, but I think the psychological field in general was still making space for the inner experience as being somewhat unique and special and needing special attention. And that it is possible to get special attention to those traumatized parts.


Aníbal: Yes. But I see that in the family system trainings there was a huge focus on the external context, and you could already bring it to the inner world in a way. So, you did an interesting bridge between the out world and the inner world in your journey as a therapist.


Cece: I didn't think about it that way, Aníbal, but that's very well put, I think that's right. I've had the opportunity to have this big picture context and to be taught in that way and this systemic thinking is very much part of how I still think. But at the same time, I had the opportunity and I did work, of course, one-on-one with individuals, men and women who had been traumatized and had the opportunity to hear their inner experience of that. And also to hear how their ambivalence towards there, towards the offender, their father, stepfather, priest, whatever, the parts of them to hear that you don't, it's...there's not a unified feeling of rage, it's rage, but also hurt, but also sometimes love. So, you know, parts work because, you know, I could see the complexity of those feelings.


This is IFS Talks, an audio series to deepen connections with the Internal Family Systems model, through conversations with lead trainers, authors, practitioners, and users.


Aníbal: If I may, Cece. You really didn't get a formal training in IFS. You just, you were already doing some work as you just explained so well, doing some inner work, natural and intuitive inner work, and you didn't get really a formal training in IFS, or once did you...?


Cece: I did then. Then I took the trainings.


Aníbal: Oh, you did it.


Cece: So, in the meantime though, aside from that, you know, and I've told this story maybe before I tell at trainings. Dick Schwartz is also is from Chicago originally, he lives in Boston now, but he's born and raised here. So, I knew him in the family therapy field because his doctorate, his PhD is in family systems in family therapy. So, we knew each other in that community, and he taught and was on staff at the Institute for juvenile research and then at the family Institute. And so, I would present at the family Institute and  run into him. And so, one day we all said in the early eighties, we heard “Dick has a new idea. Okay!” So, we got in our car and we drove downtown to see Dick and hear his new idea...


Aníbal: It wasn’t a small idea at all.


Cece: It wasn’t. What do we know? You know, but from nine to 12, for three hours, he got in front of a group of like 25 people and he had a chalkboard and he drew a pie chart, you know, and he put different segments for his parts. And he started talking about the inner world as parts and parts of the personality. And he didn't have the whole segment. He didn't even have Self at that time, you know, I mean, but he talked about parts and working with parts, but he also [Inaudible] to say this idea that develop ideas about what Self was evolved. But he had this idea that people would say things like. He was working with a woman I worked with on eating disorders and his bulimics would have these extreme things. And so, we'd start to saying “Why don't you have this part of you talk to that part of you.” And so, but at the time I thought “well, is this good or not?” You know, I was very steeped in family therapy. I was very steep and working with survivors. So, I was...


Aníbal: And maybe attached to those models also.


Cece: I was very attached, exactly. So, I intrigued me, but I didn't pursue it. And there was no [inaudible] this was the early eighties. He didn't write his book until 94, 95 it was published. I'm sure he was writing it forever, but it was published in the mid-nineties and he started doing trainings in 95, 96. So this is 12, 14 years after his first presentation of this model. So, it had a long gestation. And then the third training in Chicago, which was in 1998, I did take, so then I took the IFS training at that time.


Aníbal: But before that you had some contact with Dick, and you were in the group, you were somehow discussing?


Cece: No, I didn't want to do that because I wasn't that interested. So, he continued with consultations. I heard it and I would hear him here and there.


Aníbal: You were just being loyal to your...


Cece: I also didn't like it exactly because there was a woman on my staff who did go to his consult groups and she would come to staff meetings and she'd say, well “a part of me feels like this and then another part of me feels we should do...” Uh, I don’t care! [laughs]


Aníbal: Even parts language can be abuse.


Cece: She did some beautiful work with an offender, a father who was sexually abusive to a child. And she also presented those cases. And we were also listening to her cases at staff. So, I had my parts, had parts that weren’t attracted to this model and my parts that were very intrigued by how she was working with her clients. So, there was both. I had, but I did not pursue anything more. I just, I followed Dick though. I read them in the networker, I'd see what was going on, but I didn't see, I hadn't seen him in a long time. And I went to see him give a presentation about IFS and that's when I thought “Oh, now, now I'm into it.”


Aníbal: And finally, you got to training, right? In the nineties?


Cece: Yeah, 98.


Aníbal: And how was it? It was a steppingstone, this was also have a before and an after IFS?


Cece: Right. So after, you know, I really loved it and I've stayed interested in firefighter behavior, which in a way I was because I was working with families where...and in trauma, because I was working with families where there was heavy duty firefighter behavior on the part of the parents we would say abusive behavior and where survivors, who have very strong, extreme, sometimes managers and firefighters as well, you know, protecting their traumatized exiles. So, the way the model looked at firefighter behavior was always interesting to me and finding the compassion and the positive intention in the negative behavior. So, that stood out to me right away, I think because of my work. And, you know, I say this at different trainings...


Aníbal: At that time you were working with families, mainly, not with the addictions or also with addictions?


Cece: No, then I was working with...somewhere after that, I did community mental health for a while. Then I took actually a little break for a couple of years when my children were little. I was kind of burnt out really, I thought it was going to take a break for a summer. But I took a break for a couple years and it was good. My kids were little, and I was, I liked being at home with them, but it was also resting in a way and trying to reset my...reset some things, I think. I did some personal work at that time. You know, my own family has varied...My family, my extended family, my family tree is filled with physical, also has physical abuse, sexual abuse, addictions, eating disorders, suicide, gambling, it's all in my family tree.


Aníbal: You name it.


Cece: Right. And it affected the family I'm married into. So, I had to reset myself and find out who am I in that whole? What are my parts? My parts...I have very huge caretaking parts. So, I had to learn about that.


Tisha: Was IFS a part of that reflective process?


Cece: That happened before I took the training.


Tisha: Aha.


Anibal: Oh, wonderful.


Cece: I remember telling Dick I've worked in a lot of my stuff already, but I had. I don't know what's going to happen in this training, you know, but I think IFS helps us define and get to the nuances of our own parts beautifully, which it did for me too. But it also helps us have a model to reach people who have done very terrible things or have experienced very terrible things or both. And I think it’s a great way to reach people.


Aníbal: So, you are saying that IFS and the training you took improved and changed your clinical work in many, many ways.

Cece: In many ways.


Aníbal: And your personal and also your personal...


Cece: Sure. My personal journey was better. I could work more with my own parts in a different way. It offers another way for people in very extreme situations to be healed.


This is IFS Talks, an audio series to deepen connections with the Internal Family Systems model, through conversations with lead trainers, authors, practitioners, and users.


Tisha: I am curious about what it was like to take that time to reflect on all the extreme trauma and work that you had done in the years before.


Cece: It was great.


Tisha: It was good to take the time. Yeah.


Cece: As I said at the time, the only family in my head right now is my own, and that was good. My own family was quite complex, and I really appreciated spending that time and doing therapy and going to groups and just really diving in.


Aníbal: When you say my own you your kids or you say your inner family?


Cece: I would say my family of origin, my parents, my extended family, understanding my relationship with my parents better, understanding my relationship with my husband better. My children were in preschool. You know, there was not a complex relationship there, you know, challenging of course, but not complex. But I was looking at my role of caretaking, basically anyone who crossed my path, anyone I loved I was trying to take care of. And so, to understand how to love people and not take care of them is a beautiful journey. And I think IFS also helps with that.


Tisha: Can you speak to that journey a little bit more?


Cece: Say more about what you'd like to hear.


Tisha: Well, I feel like a lot of us have those strong caretaker parts and they get really heralded as having a lot of space and that being ok. Yeah. So, I guess I'm curious how you began to work with the caretaker to maybe see it in a new light or to shift its role within you.


Cece: Well, you're speaking actually to that other interest of mine, which is the heart, I call it the Heart lessons of the journey, which is when you chosen to be a therapist and beginning to do your own work and what we find about our role and what leads us to this and some of those parts. So, I think there's an enormous well deep well of...I've done some retreats now, had some three-day retreats just for therapists who work on our story and our role as healers. In the addictions they call it wounded healers, acknowledgment that it's from woundedness that some of that healing ability comes. So, there's a lot that I could say about that. But what I would just say is that I was facing a crisis, that feeling burnt out was because it was overwhelmed, because I had the crisis of exhaustion was my teacher to teach me that I was taking care of in an emotional sense, not a physical sense, but in an emotional sense I felt responsible for the feelings of my mother, of my father, of my husband, specifically. And that I was in a role where I felt responsible for that. So that's the essence of caretaking is, there's a flat, I mean, I could talk, I could do a workshop on it for days, but the essence of...for a therapist and IFS, I think, helps us with this. From Self, I know the other person has a Self and I'm not responsible for their inner or outer world, but I am responsible for my world and what I bring to that person. So, if I'm trying to, if I'm responsible for their inner world, then they won't be doing their own work. I'm doing it for them. So, which, of course, is a very limited ability. So that essence of that, those boundaries, I think, are related to family systems and I'm informed by family systems around those boundaries. And I'm informed by IFS around those boundaries. And I'm informed by the healing teachings, the teachings of the addiction’s world, which talks so much about whose problem is it, when someone's addicted it’s so much hooks in others to help. So, I have spent a lot of years looking at how to be helpful and healing without being hooked. So, all of those things take time. Does that sort of address what you're asking?


Tisha: Oh, absolutely. I'm really honored that you took the time to share that and to share your passion and to share how it plays into your work with addiction as well.


Cece: Right. It's all about, it's all of a piece, really.


Aníbal: So, Cece, our wounds help us to heal, but in a way, we need to heal our wounds to heal. It's a little bit tricky.


Cece: [Laughs] It is. When are we done?


Aníbal: It’s also our wounds that prevent us from helping sometimes.


Cece: That's correct. So, what we would say is that not that we have to be perfect, but if we want to use the IFS model, we would say that we were, that our goal is to be accountable. So that if in fact, and again, I feel like survivors of trauma made me accountable when I was a young, a younger therapist, you know, cause they'd be like, you know, they would track my system so closely. And I think IFS gives us the opportunity to kind of say “Oh, you're right. I had a judgmental piece come up. Oh, you're right. I got distracted there and I didn't hear the first part of what you're saying. I had a part that took me away a little bit.” So, I think IFS, because this is really sort of safe way to talk about the fact that I'm still here for you and that I had a part that took us away. So, I don't feel that our role is to be perfect, of course, but it is to be accountable for the parts that come up. And I do think it's our role to stay actively involved in our own healing process, which for most of us means going to therapy or, you know, getting, having clinic, having healing, a network around us and a place of accountability around us, you know, where we take our cases and, you know, are held both personally and professionally accountable if you will.


Aníbal: Yes. Very well said.


Cece: Not to be in trouble, but to be able, to help us see, right?


Aníbal: Wonderful.


Tisha: You gave the example of using your exhaustion as a great teacher. And so not having the space to do that, you're just exhausted.


Cece: That's right.


This is IFS Talks and audio series to deepen connections with the Internal Family Systems model through conversations with lead trainers, authors, practitioners, and users.


Aníbal: So, Cece, you became a lead trainer for IFS. I see that you are still doing your clinical work. You still enjoy doing your clinical work.


Cece: I do.


Aníbal: How was it for you to become a lead trainer and how do you enjoy to be a lead trainer now?


Cece: You know. I want to honor my first opportunity to be a lead trainer was for a training in Mississippi, which is, here in the States, it's in the South. It is a very warm, hospitable culture. The particular group, everyone in that group was Evangelical Christian. And, but we were attracted to the spirituality of the model or the organizers were, and they wanted to bring it to their evangelical community. And I was very challenged by that because it's not my spiritual practice and I was totally afraid I would offend them and say the wrong thing and, you know, how can I do all this? And I want to honor Karen Blicher because at the time to get me to go and teach down there and I didn't really exactly feel ready, I had only assisted a couple of times. So, I said, what if we do a co-lead? So, Karen Blicher  and I went into this together and she was the one we would talk, particular coordinator, she's from Asheville, North Carolina. And we did this together. And one of the things that she taught me was that we need to get seated. When we have responsibility for a group, we’re in our leadership and she taught me that phrasing, because I can remember the first time I'm sitting in a chair and the room is out in front of me and I'm in my chair at the front of the room and Karen's next to me and I'm like, “Holy freaking shit, I have to talk for the next three days and these people and they're going to listen, do I have anything to say?” [laughs]


Aníbal: And it was only three days at the time, six days now.


Cece: Well, we did six three-day weekends.


Aníbal: Ok, yes.


Cece: We were going to be there for three days. So, I was going to be there Friday, Saturday, Sunday. So, this idea of getting, can I teach the model well? Can I teach it, share these ideas well? I mean, I'm doing an experiential exercise at the right time of day? I had, you know, these are challenging questions about, I was guided also by Karen because we were co-leading. She was very specific with me. Well, if you say this part, then I want to say this part, so that we would share responsibility, but we would also share using our voice. And so that neither of us would feel not seen. She did a beautiful job of helping us be with our exiles around that. So, I learned a lot teaching with her.


Aníbal: Helping each other, yes.


Cece: Helping each other and then processing it at the end of the day. And so, the other part about being a trainer is at the end of the day, you have a staff meeting and what you do in staff meeting is you process your parts. And the lead trainer, when you have a co-lead, you might not process all of your parts with the whole staff. You know, you're more hearing the staff parts, but also the co-leads can process their parts together and that's another valuable aspect of learning how to train. It was learning what comes up when you're challenged, when somebody asks you a question, when someone disagrees with you, when someone feels hurt or angry in the training and learning how to basically just speak for your parts and hold on to your seat and hold on to your Self-energy and your perspective


Aníbal: So, it can be more difficult if you don't co-lead, as you don't now? You don't co-lead, you just lead.


Cece: Now, well, let's just say, now I'm less triggered. You know? And I might, you know, if I had something a lot going on for me, I would talk to an AT or I would take some time in Staff or chose someone to speak to about it, so I could speak for my parts, so I could unblend. I don't get particularly, you know, overly triggered anymore. I've been doing it a long time, but I think part of the learning of trainings is I'm there to facilitate their learning. I can't make people learn. I'm there to provide a safe container so they can learn and I'm there to help the staff provide a safe container.


Aníbal: It’s quite a different view or perspective or approach to the training as it was before, you somehow you are thinking you were to teach them and then you figured out you just have to hold there...


Cece: Hm mm.


Aníbal: Yeah. That’s the difference.


Cece: Obviously I have to teach, but yes, I had to get clear on really what my role is.


This is IFS Talks and audio series to deepen connections with the Internal Family Systems model through conversations with lead trainers, authors, practitioners, and users.


Tisha: I have a bit of a two-part question about training. Firstly, what do you love about training? What do you enjoy?


Cece: Well, if I'm perfectly honest, one of the things I love about training is I love to be in charge. [laughs] I love, I mean, there's a lot of decisions to make and about how to respond to a particular issue, how to respond to parts, there’s lots of decisions that we make, not just curriculum decisions. And I enjoy the process. I guess I enjoy, I used to say I don't like groups, but I spend massive amounts of my time in groups, trainings, the smaller group of the staff and the large group of the group. So, I think I like the challenge to me of making good decisions and I enjoy it. Now. I also really enjoy. I just really believe in the model as a form of healing and I have no, I have no ambivalence about IFS as the best way I know to help therapists help others. And I think it has been put to the test because, in particular, not just around for me, people will say, well, it's good with trauma. It is. I'm not against that at all. I would never minimize it's in benefit for trauma. But the angle I would like to go to is in addition to trauma is its benefits for people who have done bad things, they lived a messed-up life, they’ve been addicts for a long time, they were abusive, they have abusive parts, they've fallen apart, they’ve hurt people, they've hurt themselves. I think this model offers so much healing for them. I love that. I am unambivalent about this model as a way to offer healing.


Aníbal: So, you enjoy every minute in the trainings.  


Cece: Yeah, and I enjoy giving, I enjoy spreading the word, you know, and I enjoy people getting it and I enjoy truly, and this is truly true, not just that leadership piece, but I like thinking of new ways to express these ideas that they can be heard. And that's always a challenge because every group has a different sort of, personality, if you will. And they ask different kinds of questions. And so, it's always, it keeps me on my toes as to how best to express these ideas to others.


Tisha: Part two of my question, what do you find the most challenging about trainings or what maybe it's triggering or...


Aníbal: About the demos?


Cece: You know, demos sometimes, the demos are okay. I mean, there really is a lot of group energy. I was challenged when I first started doing them, of course. And I can still get challenged, you know, because there is that sense of wanting the session to teach the group, but yet wanting the person to have their own experience and let that particular session go where they want to go. So, that can sometimes be a bit of a challenge and...


Aníbal: To get a real, real good demo. Yeah.


Cece: Yeah, and to get it just right. Dick has a tendency to always do a complete piece of work from beginning to unburdening...


Aníbal: Yeah, the whole process, all steps.


Cece: He's very focused in that way. And he should be, he wants to show the power of his model and he should, I'm glad he does. But I think in a training scenario, I want people to see all aspects of therapy and all the different aspects of therapy that occur in their weekly office. And that's not just an unburdening. So, for me, every demo is useful because it represents a different part of the therapeutic process. So, sometimes it’s not as dramatic as a full piece of work, but they're representative of what it's like to sit week after week with your client as their story unfolds. Though I like both. I mean, I like to be able to do burdening in a demo as well. So, finding that sweet spot in between all that I think is challenging sometimes. And I also think just sometimes, you know, a training will really hit people in a very vulnerable place. So, sometimes we have a very vulnerable participant, or we might have a very vulnerable staff person, and just having enough time and emotional space to hold all that, to give the time to the staff person that they need for their part, and for their healing, for their unblending and to have this time and space for the participants that need that as well. I find that sometimes it's challenging, there's a lot that's needed.


Aníbal: Yes, and they’re large groups too. Yes, it’s a lot.


Cece: Yes.


Tisha: And a lot comes up with that invitation to be with our parts.


Cece: That’s right. We invit it and then we have to deal with them. [laughs]


This is IFS Talks, an audio series to deepen connections with the Internal Family Systems model, through conversations with lead trainers, authors, practitioners, and users,


Aníbal: Cece, is there any way that you would like to see the trainings develop or change in the future? Is there any evolution that you would like to see?


Cece: Hmm.


Aníbal: Because they are already so rich and so good in many ways.


Cece: They really are wonderful. And there's not a lot about the training that I would change. I suppose, some of the things that cross my mind as a trainer is, I still sort of, I'm a little conservative in a certain way. Like, I would love to have trainings that just have licensed clinicians in them. You know, we've always opened the model to practitioners, to bodyworkers, to organizational development. We've always opened it to everything and there's always everything. And sometimes I think because of my focus on being a clinician, I would want, I sometimes I'm frustrated when people who are coaches, not to be negative about coaching, it's a different task than psychotherapy and there are different pieces to it than psychotherapy, and there are different tasks to bodywork than psychotherapy. And I would love the freedom to just be talking to psychotherapists sometimes because I would love those people for their needs to be met. And I respect their work. It's different work though. And sometimes the differences are strike me as stark, sometimes not, but sometimes those differences seem stark.


Aníbal: You would like to work with more homogeneous groups.


Cece: And if I could choose that, I would, I really would. I would love that. And it's not as...I welcome everyone, and we all do, but I think to speak to practitioners and psychotherapists working with trauma and people coaching or doing bodywork, I think that they're engaged in different activities.


Aníbal: Absolutely.


Tisha: Yes, that makes sense.


Cece: That's something that comes up for me, but I think we are a very tap heavy. We have a lot of staff and that has evolved. We didn't use to have as many staff when I started, we did have six or seven staff for 30 people, and now we have 10 or 11 staff for 30 or 33 people, we have a staff for every small group and that has evolved over time. And initially I thought, is that really necessary? Because a PA would go in during a practice session, they'd spend 45 minutes with one group and then 45 minutes with another, it would split their time. And we did that a lot in the beginning and now it's more one staff person for every practice group. And I think that's been a good evolution and it's very top heavy. It means a lot of staff and organization, organizationally a lot, but I think it's very good for the training and I'm proud of the IFS and the organization for sticking to that.


Tisha: How has it been for you to watch IFS grow and develop in the way it has? There are trainings in countries all over the world now, there is trainings in the U S are full and there's wait lists. The model's really growing. What's that like for you and how has it been?


Cece: It's certainly it's mind-blowing, you know, I mean, it started out pretty small, you know, I mean, although Dick always had a...he was very well known in the family systems and the family therapy community, very well-known and respected at the time, he had been a family therapist, presented at national conferences, written a number of very well read books on family therapy...


Aníbal: Great manual, yes.


Cece: He brought that to the organization. So, he was well-known, but this having the model well-known, and it's just been an amazing thing, really, it has just exploded, and it is exciting because again, I am unambivalent about this as a way to approach healing. So, I think it's fantastic and I feel very grateful and very, very lucky to be along for the ride because I was in at the ground floor very early on. And so, I have had amazing opportunities along this ride to know the two of you, you know, to have gone to Portugal, to gone to all these places, to meet so many beautiful people in the States and out of the States. And I can't even, it has been a very expansive community to be a part of. And I feel very, very grateful.


Aníbal: It's beautiful. It's really, really a privilege for you to be present since the birth of the model and then see all the growing.


This is IFS Talks and audio series to deepen connection with the Internal Family Systems model through conversations with lead trainers, authors practitioners, and users.


Aníbal: Somehow you have a lot of clinical work on addictions and eating disorders. And how did you get interested? You said already something about this, how did you get interested in addictions and eating disorders and if this is the major work that you do a lot, you see a lot of addictions or you just stop doing this kind of...


Cece: Well, let's see. I would say it's probably more so...not as much...I have done a lot of work with eating disorders and just I would say just the overall category of trauma. I would say, for me what I have, if you want to say I've specialized in something, I’ve been specializing in sort of intense parts. So, whether those parts are addicted or abusive or traumatized, and I know that I'm attracted to that because of my family life, not my personal journey myself, but the people I have loved, who've been very...trauma survivors and addictions has very much impacted my life and so, I come at this, I think from a personal journey of how do I, what happens to me around people with self-destructive parts and what do I, what do I do? How does that impact me? And as a healer, as a partner, as a family member and as a person in the healing profession, what do I do about that? And that question interests me greatly, and that's still my most powerful draw. So, most of my clients are in some kind of recovery from addictions and I include all compulsive behaviors as addictions, not just substances. So, it could be eating disorders. It could be cutting, it could be a bad, you know, destructive sexual relationships. It could be, I've worked with gambling, you know, so any kind of, sort of extreme, or self-destructive sort of, most of my clients are recovering from that and, or trauma as well. So I don't, I would say as I'm older in my career, I don't take people at the initial points of recovery, so early in their recovery, which I did when I was younger, people are a little bit further in recovering when they get to me, because I actually don't, I'm not around to give that kind of once a week, twice a week session that you need earlier in recovery. So, I need people in mid or later periods of recovery to work with now, but I'm still working with those very...To me, those are the issues that are of interest to me and how they themselves also...because anyone from a traumatized family has other trauma people and addicted, addicts in their family. So how can they be in their families in healthy ways as well? So, and how can they operate in the world in a healthy way? So, I'm just attracted to working with those issues, I think.


This is IFS Talks and audio series to deepen connections with the Internal Family Systems model, through conversations with lead trainers, authors, practitioners, and users


Tisha: That brings up such a, sort of juicy question, like how can people be in their families, in their challenging family dynamics in a way that's healthy? And, you know, do you have any insight or answers? I know it's an individual system. It's a personal parts experience, but any wisdom around that, you know, how to be in Self with family when there's so many triggers, I guess, that’s the question.


Cece: I think first just owning how triggered we might be, like for me to own my exhaustion and to not keep functioning when actually I wasn't functioning well at all anymore. I mean, I didn't want to, you know, to really own our exhaustion or own our pain. And then I would say to make it a priority and the priority is, you know, it's not like to really say I'm going to do this work me and my role or my parts to come up around this person or that person. This is my priority. And it's my priority because I need to heal because I don't want to carry resentments because I don't want to be distanced, because I need to find a healthy way to be with a crazy person or a not well person so that I'm not, I'm not writing their  merry go rounds. So, I think making it a priority and also acknowledging to ourselves how impacted we are. Many of us as therapists, we minimize emotion in order, we have to have our parts step back with trains to do that as clinicians, not to say we don't feel, but we can't get dysregulated. You know, the joke, how do you regulate a therapist? Put a client in front of you! [laughs]


Aníbal: I love that one.


Cece: We regulate around other people's dysfunction. But when we're in a relationship that requires mutuality, which is intimacy with this family, partnerships, our children and adult children where there's mutuality, which is not what a clinical relationship is, then our different parts come up. And so to say, this is important to me to say I'm not doing well to say I'm hurting to say, I'm in pain, to say I have exhaustion and pain. I think that's really the first place to go. And I think clinicians sometimes have a uniquely difficult time saying how hard some things are for us. Because we do many hard things so easily.


Cece: Brilliant. Thank you.


Aníbal: Cece, many people can be led mainly by firefighters and others mainly led by managers. And I believe you have a good radar for those systems. And those systems require different approaches and strategies from you as a therapist. Can you say something around this? Because it's really quite different to be in a room with someone firefighters led than someone managers led. And, what would be your advice towards young practitioners like me? [laughs]


Cece: Not quite Aníbal. But it's such a great, you know, it's such a great question. And I felt it when I went into private practice because when I did community mental health or was working with these really intense families, everything is right there, right in front of your face. You don't have to go searching. The dysfunction is sitting there, but when you're sitting in a practice in a much more managed situation...I sometimes sit in private practice and be like, how do I break through this? It’s one of the things I am attracted to about IFS also was how do I break through these well-functioning defenses because they're well-functioning in a manager. And so, I think that those are such great questions, but I think what I like about working with managers in IFS is that the nuances as helping someone separate from analytical thinking, from criticizing, from judging, from perfectionism, when people can get unblend from those things that really run their life as they can, to any of us, to get that kind of unblend is huge. And it's very subtle though. It's more subtle because being perfectionistic is very close to being good at what you do. So how is that a problem? So, helping people unblend, identify and unblend from that, but it's such a huge relief for them. And it gives them so much more freedom. And of course, it covers up parts of them that feel not good enough and those little exiles. And, for people that are firefighter run, there's a lot of chaos and unpredictability in their life. And well, it's sort of holding on to your seat and really staying centered and focused and deep down, they have a lot of shame. So, really working with our parts so that they can begin by not judging themselves for how bad it's gone, because it's gotten bad. So, to start with their own managers, that judge them is actually, it doesn't seem like the right place to start, but it usually is. They're usually under severe self-judgment


Aníbal: And it's not easy for many psychotherapists to see those managers acting in the system.


Cece: That's right. And that's what I like to teach when I'm teaching addictions, because the firefighters are so florid, they're so distracted by the drinking, the cutting, starving, you know what can we do about that? And really that is a system. And those drinking cutting parts are trying to soothe the exiles and soothe horribly intense contemptuous managers. So, the ability to work with the whole system and help them with addictions, no I am not my addiction and I'm not my trauma. I am not either of those things.


This is IFS Talks and audio series to deepen connection with the Internal Family Systems model, through conversations with lead trainers, authors, practitioners, and users.


Aníbal: Cece, you have achieved so much as a psychotherapist, as a trainer and supervisor, is there something else you'd like to do or achieve besides keep doing what you are doing so well?


Cece: Thank you. Well, some of these questions that you're asking on, particularly the more personal journey questions that you're asking Tisha, that I think I also have a separate love for...That I'm starting to spend a little bit more of my clinical, my time which is making space for therapists to tell our own story. And, you know, that's just an interest of mine. I'm continuing to do these teach IFS and to teach and talk about addictive processes, but then that's a separate love from mine. I don't know what's going to happen for it, but I have learned in my own life, I have done my own journey is, I mean, I, you know, I don't want to say it. I think we all have a journey that's interesting. I sit in trainings and therapists are working on their own parts in the training and therapists have powerful, powerful stories of their own, of our own. So, I'm interested in those stories too.


Aníbal: It’s very welcome that work.


Tisha: Well, I imagine that anyone listening to this audio podcast would be interested in finding out more about that work that you do. Is there a link that we could post to your website or are there, are there retreats that you have coming up, if people wanted to find out more about how to participate in that...


Cece:  I do have a website and I do right now offer retreats every summer, every June around that. And I may offer more. I'm busy. [laughs].


Aníbal: You are really busy. What are the topics Cece?


Cece: Well, I do, you know, I continuing to do stuff around addictive processes. And I do workshops around that. Mary Kruger also at CSL is doing a lot of level two training around teaching addiction. And she and I have co-lead together at the conference. And she's very, very, very seasoned in using IFS to those processes. So, I want to just name that she's an excellent trainer in this area and she, so she's been continuing to train these level twos and I will do some of them as well. And then sometimes I just do a workshop that's a little bit more experiential for a couple of days. And I've been doing that a long time, 10 years or so doing sort of experiential two-day workshops or three-day workshops, not a training, but it's helpful and it let you learn, but it's a little different.


Aníbal: So, the personal life of psychotherapists became a huge pleasure and interest for you?


Cece: Hmm mm.


Aníbal: Recently.  


Cece: Recently like 20 years ago.[laughs]


Aníbal: Let's keep it recently.


Cece: Yes, we can edit that part out.


Aníbal: Cece, is so, so good to be with you. We could make this conversation last for hours, but I hope we can get back to you as soon as possible. And we have to thank you so much for having us and the time you've spent...I don't know if you want to say something Tisha.


Tisha: Yeah, just a big thank you. It feels like a joy to be in your presence and to hear about your experience and your journey and where you're going. Sign me up for June, please. [laughs]


Cece: All right! Well, thanks so much for inviting me. It's a joy and an opportunity, you know, every time, just thinking about, you know, the opportunity to talk is always fun, but also to reflect. So, thanks for such lovely questions. Invites me to reflect.


Aníbal: Thank you. Thank you, Cece, it was fun. Again, thank you so much.


Cece: Yeah. Well, listen, you guys have a good weekend, everybody.


Tisha: You too enjoy the warm Chicago weather.


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.