The Internal Family Systems, or IFS model operates on the principal that internally, we have an ecology
of relatively discrete minds, which interact with our healthy self, and take on roles to keep us safe and
functioning. Find out how IFS can help you. The 3 common roles are the Manager, the Exiles, and the Firefighters.
Managers maintain control; for example, the manager may be your internal critic, or the part that leads
you to take care of others, and not be too dependent.
Exiles carry our emotional pain, shame, hurt, and humiliation. Managers work hard to keep these
feelings out of our consciousness.
Firefighters respond when exiles threaten to flood the system. When this happens, firefighters lead us
to seek stimulation to override the exiles. Examples of this are when we use food, drugs, alcohol, or
work to stave of attending to our feelings.
Over time, these roles and the Self become intertwined and it can be challenging to disentangle them.
The goal of therapy is to differentiate the healthy Self (which we all have) from the parts, and the roles
they play. In doing so, we can approach the roles from a place of safety and validation and learn the
reasons they play the roles they play and discern roles they would rather play. In doing so, the Self gains
strength and the minds take on more adaptive roles and behaviors. In this way, we become more fully
integrated and are able to act, rather than react, to triggers.
Melissa Rust, LPC, NCC
Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center