6 Step IFS Process

The 6Fs: The Steps We Use to Help Protective Parts Differentiate from the Self

The first three steps (find, focus, flesh out) involve helping parts to unblend.

1. FIND the part in, on or around the body.

  • Who needs your attention right now?
  • Where do you notice it?


2. FOCUS on it.

  • Turn your attention inside.


3. FLESH it out.

  • Can you see it? If so, how does it look?
  • If not, how do you experience it? What is that like?
  • How close are you to it?


4. How do you FEEL toward the part?

  • This question is our Geiger Counter for Self-energy. Any answer that is not in the ballpark of the 8 C’s (The qualities of Self-energy: Curiosity, calm, clarity, connectedness, confidence, courage, creativity and compassion) means that a second part is influencing our thoughts. We ask this second part if it is willing to relax so we can talk to the target part. “If it is not willing to relax,” we ask it what it needs us to know. This process may lead us to a second (or third, fourth…) target part.
  • Reactive parts often need to feel heard and validated. We stay with them until they are willing to let us get to know the target part.
  • Once they agree, we ask the client, “How do you feel toward the (target) part now?”


5. BeFRIEND the part by finding out more about it.

  • The fifth step involves learning about the target part and developing a friendly relationship. This builds relationships internally (Self to part) and externally (part to therapist). “How did it get this job?” “How effective is the job?” “If it didn’t have to do this job, what would it rather do?” “How old is it?” “How old does it think you are?” “What else does it want you to know?”


6. What does this part FEAR?

  • “What does it want for you?”
  • “What would happen if it stopped doing this job?”

This key question will reveal any lurking polarization.
“If I stop feeling anxious, I’m afraid the suicidal part will take over.” Or it will reveal the exile it protects.
“If I stop feeling anxious I’m afraid Jane will feel all alone and worthless.”

Use this simple exercise to help your clients understand and work with their internal parts to begin the deep healing process that trauma requires.



  1. CONTACTING EXILE: Establishing a connection between the Self and Exile in which the Self can be present with the experience of the exile.
  2. WITNESSING EXILE: Inviting the Exile to show anything it wants to show so it can be seen, felt and understood — in what happened and how that made it feel.
    Additionally: Supporting the Exile in understanding that this happened in the past.
  3. REPARENTING EXILE: Allowing the Exile to have a new experience. Either in the memory of the past OR in the present.
  4. RETRIEVING EXILE: Freeing the Exile from the situation of the past and bringing it into a better situation in imagination or the present.
  5. UNBURDENING EXILE: Holding a ritual in which the Exile can let go of the Burdens it has been holding. To wind, water, fire, earth, light, or something else.  Show exile memories (lifespan integration therapy) of whole life.
  6. INTEGRATING EXILE AND PROTECTOR: Finding a good place for both Exile and protector in the system and life.