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Digital Seminar

Addictive Behaviors as Self-Preservation: Key Insights from the Internal Family Systems Model

Richard C. Schwartz, PhD
1 Hour 27 Minutes
Oct 16, 2020
Product Code:
Media Type:
Digital Seminar
Never expires.


By looking at addictive behaviours – from drugs and alcohol to sex, technology, and binge eating -- as means of self-protection and a way of staving off deep personal pain, the IFS model provides a model of treatment that avoids power struggles, and feelings of shame and judgment that can often accompany treatment for trauma and addictions.

Watch IFS developer, Richard Schwartz, demonstrate how IFS is used with addictive behaviours and see how the IFS model is a compassionate means to revisit trauma and initiate healing, and in turn, helps the individual to address the subsequent addictive behaviours often without the need for extended grounding techniques at the beginning of treatment.

Developed over the past four decades, the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model offers both a conceptual umbrella under which a variety of practices and different approaches can be grounded and guided and provides a set of original techniques for creating safety and fostering Self-to-Self connection in traumatized clients.


Richard C. Schwartz, PhD's Profile

Richard C. Schwartz, PhD Related seminars and products

The Center for Self Leadership

Richard Schwartz began his career as a family therapist and an academic at the University of Illinois at Chicago. There he discovered that family therapy alone did not achieve full symptom relief and in asking patients why, he learned that they were plagued by what they called "parts." These patients became his teachers as they described how their parts formed networks of inner relationship that resembled the families he had been working with. He also found that as they focused on and, thereby, separated from their parts, they would shift into a state characterized by qualities like curiosity, calm, confidence and compassion. He called that inner essence the Self and was amazed to find it even in severely diagnosed and traumatized patients. From these explorations, the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model was born in the early 1980s.

IFS is now evidence-based and has become a widely-used form of psychotherapy, particularly with trauma. It provides a non-pathologizing, optimistic, and empowering perspective and a practical and effective set of techniques for working with individuals, couples, families, and more recently, corporations and classrooms.

In 2013, Schwartz left the Chicago area and now lives in Brookline, MA where he is on the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Speaker Disclosures:
Financial: Dr. Richard Schwartz is the Founder and President of the IFS Institute (formerly the Center for Self Leadership). He maintains a private practice and has employment relationships with Harvard Medical School and Northwestern University. Dr. Schwartz is a published author and receives royalties. He receives a speaking honorarium and recording royalties from PESI, Inc. He has no relevant financial relationships with ineligible organizations.
Non-financial: Dr. Richard Schwartz is a member of the American Family Therapy Academy and the American Association for Marital and Family Therapy.

Additional Info

Program Information

Access for Self-Study (Non-Interactive)

Access never expires for this product.


  1. Determine how the Internal Family Systems Model (IFS) views addictive behaviours and recovery.
  2. Apply IFS-specific grounding techniques that may help clients with addiction, recovery and trauma.
  3. Apply three IFS-specific techniques for reducing addictive behaviours and symptoms of traumatic stress.


Multiplicity & the Self

  • Evolution of the IFS approach
  • Multiplicity of the mind
  • Stumbling on to the self

Internal Family System (IFS) with Trauma

  • IFS techniques:
    • Honouring protectors
    • Dealing with the overwhelm
    • Witness and retrieve exiles
    • Unburden trauma memories, beliefs and emotions

Keys to Working Safely with Addictions and Trauma

Target Audience

  • Counselors
  • Social Workers
  • Psychologists
  • Psychotherapists
  • Therapists
  • Marriage & Family Therapists
  • Addiction Counselors
  • Case Managers
  • Physicians
  • Nurses
  • Other Mental Health Professionals

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