An IFS Journey with Michelle Glass
Michelle Glass is a level three Certified IFS Practitioner, Alternative Counselor*, and SoulCollage® Facilitator in Eugene, Oregon. She is the author of the well-received book, Daily Parts Meditation Practice©: A Journey of Embodied Integration for Clients and Therapists and provides DPMP workshops at the Annual IFS Conference and around the world, as well as offers support for those wanting to work with the tools of the DPMP process.
Having over 15 years of experience with the IFS Model and learning it first from the inside out, Michelle brings a palpable nature of a Self-led / mostly-unburdened system to the world. Becoming acquainted with her parts through healing from a childhood of complex trauma, she like Dick, is “a crusader for the personhood of parts.” Her IFS healing journey and Dick’s interest in her tools birthed the DPMP process.
She loves bringing the gifts of intimately knowing her own system to facilitate others, especially therapists and practitioners, in doing so. Her private practice the Listener, LLC, has always been online enabling her to see clients around the world and she maintains a lengthy waitlist. Additionally, Michelle is the editor of the Foundation for Self Leadership's magazine, OUTLOOK.
She has greatly enjoyed expanding her world-wide circle of colleagues and friends through these positions. She is currently on a writing sabbatical to complete her next book which will take readers through a felt sense of a highly-blended system with little access to Self to that of a mostly-unburdened Self-led system.
Today on IFS Talks we're speaking with Michelle Glass. Michelle Glass is a Level 3 certified IFS practitioner, alternative counselor and soul collage facilitator in Eugene, Oregon. She's the author of the well-received book, Daily Parts Meditation Practice: A Journey of Embodied Integration for Clients and Therapists. Michelle also provides DPMP workshops at the annual IFS Conference and around the world, as well as offers support for those wanting to work with the tools of the DPMP process. Having 15 years of experience with the IFS model and learning it for the first time from the inside out, Michelle brings a palpable nature of a Self-lead mostly unburdened system to the world. Additionally, Michelle Glass is the editor of the Foundation for Self Leadership's magazine Outlook. Michelle, welcome to IFS Talks, and thanks for being here with us today.
Michelle Glass: Thank you, Tisha and Aníbal. It's really nice to be here. My parts have been very excited to be here with you today.
Aníbal Henriques: Thanks, Michelle, for willing to sit with us. What parts come up today hearing your bio?
Michelle: I want to just check inside here. Well, the first one that usually comes up with things like this is...my main manager area in me, who wonders sometimes how much it matters to listeners that we don't hear big credentials behind my name. And that's often a big thought through her head, even though she's heard to the contrary many times, but that was not so important. I also hear her saying she's really proud of the work we've been doing and excited for the conversation. And she's also saying "How did we get here?" I also noticed a bunch of little shy parts, my younger parents, who don't like to be in the spotlight and they're kind of peeking their heads out from behind other parts kind of bodies. And it's, I'm getting this image from my parts of like, they see me and you, you both up on a stage talking and they're in the audience looking at us. So, that's kind of the image that I'm seeing from the collective. I suppose if I sat in there long enough, I'd get something more from probably every part.
Tisha: Will you share with us how you got here? A little bit of that journey that part was wondering about?
Michelle: Yeah. How did I get here? I guess more broadly, you know, how I came here is from my own healing journey with IFS. And, fast forward, going through that process, during that process came up with these different things that eventually led to my book and that book, you know, being so well-received as kind of catapult me to where I am. So, I mean, that's a very quick synopsis of how I got here, but we can take some time through each of those pieces. But that question from Ariadne, how did I get here is one of...think stemming back from my childhood of not wanting to be in the spotlight and not wanting to have eyes upon me and very, very afraid to speak to other people. So, she's like "Wow, look how far we've come," you know, it's not just that we were having a conversation in person with somebody, but this is a bigger piece, so...
Aníbal: Michelle, could you please tell us a bit about your journey into the helping profession once you are a counselor as well? So, was there something in your personal life that was determinant for you becoming a counselor?
Michelle: Yeah. I grew up with a lot of complex trauma, abused by two family members and also a child of divorce. And when I was a child, I always felt like there must be a way to prevent all of this that I was feeling And going through school I always thought I would go on to become a therapist and along my journey, I ended up having children and deciding to be a stay at home mom. So that got on hold. And, then my trauma became...what should I say? My exiled trauma began to resurface and so I had to, I was faced with having to work through that and working through that process and then going, I went to Esalen many years in a row and met Dick and became friends with a lot of therapists and they were all thinking, well, you know, you you're...they always thought I was a therapist to begin with, but then they were like "Well, if you're not one, you should become one."
Aníbal: You were a mother back then?
Michelle: I was, yes, definitely. And in that process of hearing from other therapists of, you know, really highly encouraging me to become a therapist or a counselor, I sat with parts around going back to school to get my master's and didn't do that in Oregon. Oregon's one of two states in the US that allows for people to practice counseling without higher degrees. So, and as long as I don't assess, diagnose or treat mental disorders, which fits very perfectly with IFS...
Aníbal: I would be happy as well not having to do that...
Michelle: Yeah. Yeah. So, it fits very perfectly. So, I'm able to practice, you know, IFS with clients, so...
Tisha: Will you share a little bit about your own healing journey with us? Now you really know your system well and your parts are really well articulated, but how did you begin to explore that?
Michelle: Well, I'll say it was a really scary decision for my system to embark on this journey because it had been so exiled for me and having my children would bring up a lot of flashbacks for me and lots of memories that I hadn't remembered for a long time. And that was really problematic and so I knew I had to get into some sort of therapy and because my parts, that I didn't know were parts at the time, I just thought it was all of me, was really afraid of being diagnosed with anything and the pathology and so I looked for therapists who couldn't do that, or didn't have that in their frame of reference. So, I started with Hakomi therapist and she was very body focused and being an incest survivor that was really challenging and very scary for me to focus on the body. So, you know, I saw her for about three years, and I would say in retrospect that Hakomi was certainly helpful in many ways, but there was not, what I later learned, this process of unblending. To me, it felt like a lot of being highly blended still in Hakomi. But one day she was using IFS with me and I just stopped her in her tracks. I said, "Well what is this? Because whatever this is, it's exactly what I need, because this is going somewhere different, this feels really good." And she said "Oh, I had just come back from a training it's called IFS."
Aníbal: So, you had a Hakomi therapist making a foray or detour into IFS
Tisha: Your system just recognized the difference.
Michelle: It was a huge difference...
Tisha: And said yes.
Michelle: Yeah, yeah. There was this...In the Hakomi, you know, she would mention parts work that, she would kind of lay the little seeds of..."Well, that's just a part of you." And that was just really scary for parts of me who felt like, you know, if I listened to these quilt parts, I'm going to be like Sybil, you know, I'm going to have DID, right? And that was just so scary, but there was something different in that first session with IFS that just made my system relax enough to go, okay, this feels safe. And from there I went home, and I had to look up IFS and there was a workshop with Dick at Esalen a couple of months later and I went straight into a workshop with Dick. And when I came home from that, I told my therapist, I said, "I want two sessions a week and I want 90 minutes each session." And it felt like Domino's like, we were just meeting part after part after part and unburdening and unburdening. And it just felt like maybe all those three years of Hakomi of listening into the body here and there and meeting the dissociation and resistance and all of this began to make sense in the parts framework for me.
Tisha: And you spent a lot of time with your parts. I remember in that workshop with you, you had like maybe different, like beautiful representations of many of your parts.
Michelle: Yes. Yeah. That came much later, that came, I would say maybe 10 or 12 years after, after that initial IFS session. And that's a piece of, you know, I was in that regular, highly focused IFS sessions for a few years. And then I got to a place where I felt like, Oh, I could take a break from, from therapy for a while. You know, I have I'm feeling really good for the first time in my life. And so, I left therapy for a bit. And then as life has it was retriggered when a new relationship and new things were popping up, which brought me to what my parts refer to as the epicenter of the epicenter of my trauma, little extreme example that epicenter of the epicenter, which then ended up...my system at that point really wanted to be, I would say more recognized. And so that's where my daily meditation practice began and that's where these pendants are these externalization of those pendants that you saw came in as getting to know what item did my parts want so that when I saw that, or when my other parts saw that pendant, they knew who that part is.
Aníbal: So, Michelle, you have a long journey of therapy. This Hakomi becoming IFS. And then when you stopped, you started doing your daily practice?
Michelle: So, there wasn't, like I mentioned, there was a break between kind of pockets of therapy, if you will.
Michelle: And it was during that second segment of deep inner work that daily meditation practice started, which was about Hum...Maybe seven years ago. And that really stemmed from the, what felt like the epicenter, like the deepest part of my wounding really became available to me. And from that really making sense of the whole system. And that's where my parts really wanted to have a daily practice. And once I started connecting every morning on a walk in my local Arboretum, there was this really palpable sense of relief and calm in the system because my part's new, I've got roughly about 30, 31 parts and I choose one party today. So, they knew that at least one, one day a month, they'll get some time talking with me unless there's something big up, they also get some more time with me, right? So, there was this relief in my system of, "Oh, we don't have to wait for just, you know, going to Esalen or going to some place where we have the opportunity for meditation, we're going to do this every day."
Aníbal: You know, Michelle, in my work with my clients, I need to take notes for somehow tracking their parts. And maybe I track more clients’ parts in mine...
Michelle: Yes, yes.
Aníbal: And it's amazing that you can do this by yourself. Being able to track your own parts in such a beautiful and illustrated way. How was it for you with tracking your clients’ parts? Did you just went the same way you did it with yourself?
Michelle: Yes, exactly. Yeah. Along my journey, whenever a part would unburden, I would write down the critical...what a part of me calls the critical pieces. You know, what burdens there are, where they were retrieved, what they unburden and the qualities received.
Aníbal: So, I would write those down and it wasn't until later that I realized "Oh, this is actually really helpful. I can use this, use this with my clients." And so that's kind of how I started tracking with my clients is using what I call parts catalog cards. And that's something that's in my book that we'll talk about some other time, but being able to really listen to each part and write something down that we were hearing about them and capturing it on one individual sheet of paper that we just add to over time has been very helpful for me with my clients. And it was for me in my healing journey.
Tisha: I'm really curious about how you dovetailed into working with the IFS Institute and leading workshops. How did that happen?
Michelle: Yeah. I was preparing to go to Esalen one year and my therapist at the time when I had completed that strand of parts on the necklace, she said, "You must show this to Dick when you go to Esalen." And I did, and his jaw almost dropped and he said "Come sit down and show me this and tell me about all of these things that you have here." And I thought "Oh, this is just what everybody does, right? Everybody goes through their system and makes things like this with their parts." And he's like "Not everybody does this, no." So he suggested I introduced this to the group there at Esalen and then from there he said, "I think it would be really a great contribution to come to the conference and present these different things that you do and these tools that have now become tools." And it was scary enough initially for my part to present it in a group of 30 at Esalen. But to know, “Wow, Dick's wanting me to go to the conference” was a huge thing. So, I had to work with a lot of parts around public speaking because I hadn't given a presentation in probably 25 years at that point or something. And yeah, so I went to the conference and well, a little side piece of that is in preparation for that, making my PowerPoint, I soon discovered that this was more than a PowerPoint. This was more of a book and that's kind of how the book was birth and having a very short, a short time between when Dick invited me to the conference to getting the official confirmation from the Institute to come, was a very short time for me to get ready, so I wrote that book in about four to six months with, you know, probably 15 hours a day after clients and stuff. So, that's kind of my journey of getting to the conference and my first workshop that you Tisha were at.
Tisha: So, there are some really capable parts in there.
Michelle: That would be Ariadne and Henry, two of my parts. I know my system so well. So, when I, you know, when you asked about the bio or people ask, you know, what do your parts think, I can know exactly who's talking, but those two are the ones who really helped with the book.
Tisha: It's an incredible contribution.
Michelle: Thank you.
Aníbal: Michelle, you are now a counselor and a therapist and an IFS practitioner. What did help you more or as much to become a good practitioner or a good IFS therapist? Was it your own journey in the Hakomi IFS journey? Or how much this work you just mentioned, the daily practice helped you to become a better practitioner or therapist?
Michelle: That's a good question. I think if I were to look back at all of that, and just from the frame of reference of the model itself, to me just having healed my parts and knowing them well enough that they give me the space in sessions with clients is I think what, what is the biggest piece for me that my parts are very willing to give space and very seldom do they pop in in a session. So, I think that's the biggest piece.
Tisha: So, you're able to really just be there for clients with a lot of Self.
Michelle: Yeah. Right. And with that daily practice that I had begun seven years ago with my parts, when I did start working with clients at the end of my meditation practice, I would let my system know which clients I was seeing that day, and for them to let me know in this meditation, if there's anything that, you know, you're worried about or bothered about by these different clients I'm seeing today. And so, I would get to hear that at the beginning of my day, they would know that I understood them and then they could go about my parts could go about their own days, right? While I was busy with my clients. And if a part did come up in a session with a client, I would, you know, check in with them and I'd say, "I'll be right with you at the end of the day." And a different part kind of takes over and sits with that part, you know, during the session. And then at the end of the day, I can go back to my part and see what was it that made them feel like they needed to come into the session. And what was their concern.
Tisha: And with the clients that you work with, is there a specific arena that you prefer, or people who are drawn to you, do you work with abuse and trauma?
Michelle: Yeah. I do work with a lot of trauma survivors and, ironically, Ariadne would say ironically, I work with a lot of therapists, like I think probably three quarters of my clientele are therapists, whether they know IFS or not. So, and in fact, I've had a few non-IFS therapists come to me, and then over the course of our work, decided to go take a Level 1, and then they become IFS therapists themselves. But yeah, I see mostly trauma survivors and therapists with the varying different things that they want to work with.
Aníbal: Michelle, you also became the editor for the Outlook magazine newsletter on IFS Foundation. Can you tell us more about this work of yours?
Michelle: Yeah. That also stems from Esalen. One year I was there and my friend Marushka Glissen had talked about the Foundation, which was just getting started back then and mentioned that they were looking for volunteers. And at that time, I wasn't working, and I had a lot of time on my hands. So, I contacted Toufic Hakim, who is the executive director and said, "I've got some time, what would you like me to do?" And he said, "Well, what can you do?" And I said "Well, I've written newsletters before, and I could do some database management. And so, I started out as a volunteer, starting up their database and then creating Outlook. So, we started Outlook, which was then just a little 12-page newsletter and it goes out twice a year and each edition, it grew and grew and grew. So, we've grown from 12 pages. I think those last one is 64 pages. And about a year after the volunteering was brought on as a consultant. So, yeah, it's been a fun journey.
Aníbal: And what is this magazine about? Could you tell us a bit about what are their goals?
Michelle: Yeah. In Outlook, we like to feature pretty much anything IFS related. So, we've got dedicated sections for research, how people are using IFS, both in psychotherapy and then beyond psychotherapy. And we have a community, connections piece where we also feature the work, our updates from the Institute. And then also highlight what the Foundation itself has done over the course of the year. So, we do feature many people in the community and show the varying ways people are using IFS. And so, it goes out to everybody who's a member of the Foundation. And then the Institute has a reciprocal relationship with us, where about a week after we send ours out, they will send a digital form of Outlook out to everyone who's on the Institute’s mailing list.
Aníbal: So, Michelle, you keep an eye on the unfolding world of IFS.
Michelle: I do.
Aníbal: What are you seeing as for the future, for instance?
Michelle: Yeah. Good question. I would just want to say there are some parts of me that really enjoy this position there, because I do get a lot of insight perspectives that don't get to be shared for until they're ready. So, but as far as what I see, there's just in the last, as you both probably know, IFS has taken off by leaps and bounds in the last 10 years, but especially in the last three to four. And being able to see just the wide variety of where IFS is used, not only in therapy, but just, you know, in business and schools and mediation and law, it's really becoming what Dick has talked about and what I've always dreamed about too, is having IFS as kind of the, the air we breathe. And that's kind of what I get to see as like all these different pockets of places where IFS is being used.
Tisha: And what about for you personally? What's next? What's coming down the line?
Michelle: What's coming down the line...Well, I'm on a sabbatical to write my next book, which will be capturing my IFS healing journey of bringing a system fully from really highly blended, very little access to Self through that process, through the whole system to a mostly unburdened Self-led life. So, it's going to show that huge trajectory for me. So, there's that.
Aníbal: So, this one is not a deepening of The Daily Practice?
Michelle: It's not so much a deepening of...well, I guess in some ways you might consider it a deepening of the DPMP. I think readers who have read the DPMP will get to see how, how and why that was created maybe through that, and why those different tools were really helpful. I'm also doing my first online DPMP workshop, and this will be December 11th with Derek Scott's masterclass series. And it's just a three-hour intro to the DPMP. But then in February, I will be doing two different series. The first one is a four-week series for therapists. And the second series is a three-week series for clients. And both of those are a real full experience of all the six tools of the DPMP. And that's through Michael in Poland with Life Architect.
Tisha: I understand that you are entitled to a big congratulations.
Michelle: Yes. I'm getting married next week.
Aníbal: Oh, wishing you the best.
Michelle: Thank you.
Tisha: Yeah, I hope it goes beautifully. I know the pandemic has probably shifted plans.
Michelle: Yeah. Yeah. Certainly. Once the pandemic releases its grip on everybody, we'll have a much bigger celebration, but it'll be a very small one for now.
Tisha: Beautiful. Thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today and to share your journey and share your experience and your wisdom.
Michelle: Thank you.
Aníbal: Yes, Michelle. We look forward to sit with you again. It was a joy to be here with you and Tisha. We hope we can keep meeting and sharing this model, our work and our lives. Thank you so much.
Michelle: Thank you for having me. I look forward to meeting with you again.
Recorded 18th November 2020
Transcript Edition: Carolina Abreu