Kelly Coulter, PLLC joins the podcast to talk about the IFS (Internal Family Systems) framework.

I talk with Kelly Coulter about her use of the IFS (Internal Family Systems) framework to support clients in her private practice in Austin Texas. The IFS framework was developed by Dr. Richard Schwartz and acknowledges the multiple selves within an individual. This does not mean that someone has multiple personalities, but rather that within each of us we have different parts and in working with those parts we can better connect with our true selves.

If this sounds confusing, take a listen to this episode and Kelly explains the basics of IFS and how this way of thinking about ourselves can help us better understanding ourselves.

“We want to be able to observe our parts. What I love about IFS is we want you to embrace those parts and approach them with compassion.”

– Kelly Coulter PLLC

In this episode, we cover:

  • How traumatic wounds create disconnection from self.
  • How our parts create a way to manage this shame and distress.
  • The 8 Cs that are components of Self.
  • What are managers and fire fighters?
  • What are exiles, protectors, or the self-critic
  • How mapping parts can help explore how you are functioning.


part, people, ifs, teens, therapist, feel, internal family systems, thinking, anxious, inner critic, trauma, child, parents, showing, exile, talk, protect, called, wound, shame


Megan Gipson, Kelly Coulter

Megan Gipson  00:02
Hi, and welcome to the family brain podcast. This is a podcast dedicated to the glorious and messy world of family life and mental health. I'm your host, Megan Gipson. I'm a licensed clinical social worker with a private practice in Austin, Texas. I try to keep it real. And I invite guests who I think might help us navigate this journey of being human. Thanks for listening. Hi, Kelly, thanks so much for joining me on the family brain. Today, Kelly is actually a repeat guest. So like you're like, Well, I hate to use the example of Dr. Oz, he's gone down in my eyes. But you know, you're you're one of the favorites. Today, we are going to be talking about internal family systems. And I'm excited about that, because I read a little bit about it. But I know this is something that really excites you. So thanks for joining me.

Kelly Coulter  00:57
Yeah, thank you for having me. It's always so much fun to speak with you both on the podcast and outside the podcast. So I'm honored and grateful that you have asked me back. Yes,

Megan Gipson  01:07
we I should have disclosure that you and I are basically as much of co workers as therapists can be sometimes we support one another, which is kind of nice. Yes, absolutely. So what if somebody's like internal family systems? Never heard of it? What are you even talking about, I'm about to turn this off, because this sounds like kind of blah,

Kelly Coulter  01:30
right. And, and this is going to be an oversimplification of it, because it is a complex concept. But I feel like I've gotten the language now on how to make it understandable. So and I'll start by saying what I love about it, because that helps me explain what it is. And what I love about ifs short for internal family systems by Dr. Dick Schwartz, is that it is a way to frame our mind in a way that doesn't pathologize or shame, any piece of us or any behavior or any manifestation, whether it's thinking or behavior that we may have as a result of an established pattern. So ifs essentially thinks of the mind is having parts. And that's not to say in a way that there's multiple personalities or any schizophrenia going on in each of us, but that each of us has different parts to us, in our minds, sub personalities, if you will. And the way I like to have people visualize that is to think of the self as, like the sun, that's our core, our self. The way ifs described self, when you know that you're in self energy is when you are in a place of there's eight seats, compassion, curiosity, courage, clarity, creativity, connected, competence, and calm. So that's the self energy, and we all have it. We also all have parts of us that can eclipse that son of self. And those parts show up at different times when we are triggered. And for today's purpose, we're going to talk about triggering trauma. And we're going to define trauma pretty broadly as any injury physical, sexual or emotional, that shifts your fundamental reality, your ability to trust people or your worldview. So, you know, a lot of times I hear people invalidate their own trauma, because they're, they'll say things like, Well, I wasn't, my parents were extremely abusive. My parents meant well, they loved me, or, you know, wasn't that bad. But, you know, at this point, we can all say we've experienced at least one major trauma, which was COVID. But you know, prior to that,

Megan Gipson  04:02
I just interviewed another woman. She wrote a book called believing me about complex PTSD and her own child, and she said, she almost named it like, Was it really that bad? Or something like that, like that there's always this element of is this is this really bad enough to to be considered a trauma? And it sounds like even horrific trauma. People have elements of that,

Kelly Coulter  04:27
right? Because we all adjust and, and we find ways to cope. And that's essentially where our parts are born, that they get there's a wound in us at some point, whether that's through attachment, with caregivers, whether that's with friendships, whether it's with society, any trauma triggers a wound, and our parts come in to protect us from that wound. It's sort of like, you know, I'm, as you know, I'm certified in Brene, Brown's daring way and And she talks about it as shame shields, you know, we go into shame and our in our body developed shields to avoid feeling the shame. Well, ifs just uses different language and talks about it in parts. So we develop parts and there's, there's the self is not a part. That's where we all want to be sort of functioning from. And as self, we want to be able to observe our parts. And to me, what I love about ifs is we want you to embrace those parts and approach them with compassion. Whereas when I've done CBT, and DBT, in the past all extremely effective as well, just a different approach, we try to distract from thinking we try to find other behavioral interventions, which, again, very effective, but this to me feels a little softer in a way to embrace it holistically. And our parts, ifs breaks them into exiles, protectors. And then you have the inner critic, which is, you know, this, we all sort of have, but the base, I

Megan Gipson  06:04
wonder if the inner critic is the self, which I know is not the case, I don't want to confuse people. But it's like, I always think of it as like, like the person at karaoke. Have you ever gone to karaoke, like somewhere out in the world and somebody gets the mic and like will put it down? You know what I mean? Like, that's the inner critic like, no, no, I've got one more song, you know, like, it's like, it can be constant anyway.

Kelly Coulter  06:25
And sometimes that can be our loudest part. So that is up to you, as an individual and with your therapist, or alone to map out your parts and try to approach it from a place of patience and persistence of trying to figure out which part is showing up for me right now. And how is it showing up, there's managers and there's firefighters, the managers tend to be more widely embraced because those show up like a type A a perfectionist, I'm going to manage everything around me to protect this wounded part of me, which is the exile. That's, that's what's underneath all of the protectors is this exile, this terrified toddler, this hostile team, this confused, angry, elementary aged child, you know, and as adults, we've exiled those parts, we don't want to feel that ever again. It was so painful. And our protectors came in to protect us. So they're, they're well intentioned, right, we have to assume positive intention, which is the hard part because when self gets angry at a part, that's when we're not embracing it, we're not able to unblended from the part because we're not fully accepting it and healing that exile that's underneath the part. The firefighters come in and blast a fire hose at the problem at the at the issue so they can try to numb that's where a compulsive eater, a compulsive drinker, a compulsive shopper, a compulsive exerciser, those behaviors or firefighting, they were, they were initially put in place to guard that exiled part and were effective at that age, it kept you alive, it kept you in survival mode, it kept you safe from whatever the pain was, you were feeling, the problem becomes now as an adult, when it's no longer serving, so someone will come in to treatment and say, I'm feeling overwhelmed. I'm so stressed, I'm doing this, this and this, I'm trying to manage my children. I'm trying to control this. And

Megan Gipson  08:39
then me, like,

Kelly Coulter  08:41
it said that it's me, you know, yeah, it's probably every mother right now, during this time of year, but we would usually use the language as humans as mothers as here's my issue. I like to see it as Yes, that's a part it's a part and the behavior has become an issue. So and the pattern is an issue, it could be in a relational it could be just with your own functioning or an inner critic. And, or it could be with coworkers with friends. So we look at the pattern first and sort of backtrack it, is it managing or is it firefighting? What is the purpose? How Why is that showing up right now and overwhelming the self? And then we go in and unblended which is a process we can talk about if we have time.

Megan Gipson  09:32
Yes, I need to be unblended during I need that to happen ASAP. So okay, so let me let me try this just to see if I'm getting it so that I'm trying to think of like an example that we can like pull all the way through so Okay, so the mother who is overwhelmed and like this is my issue. Yeah, I'm stressed but the protector might be like okay, but I'm just going to keep managing I'm going to keep is that the protector in them? manager, the same protected leader are the same. So I'm going to keep managing, I'm going to keep like, showing up driving, getting everybody where they need to be buying the gifts, doing all the things, that's the managing part of it. But underneath that the reason it's showing up as as a problem, or as an issue is because there's something else that you're pushing down.

Kelly Coulter  10:22
Like that, because this is an excellent example. I want to be careful with it, because some of those things are just things we have to do. Right. You know, there's, it's a difference, but it's when it tips over into overwhelm. So, you know, that's when we have to pull back. It could be a boundary issue, right? It doesn't necessarily mean there's a childhood wound there. But likely, there is or you wouldn't have gotten to this place. Yeah, that you feel the need to try to control. And that's a great example, I actually have, I had one in mind about tracking and mapping parts. And it and it started with the choose the symptom, or the behavior that you're having trouble with. And I was going to say, it's my controlling part that my kids or my partner don't like, right, that's, there's a part of me that needs to control a lot of things in my life. And so you would start by recording, and recording, meaning noticing, you're taking note of the experience, the Insight experience of this part, what are the thoughts you're having around it? What are the feelings? What are the body sensations? So you know, this, this aligns with the example you brought to and, you know, if you want to, if you want to go for this, we can you can talk about what thoughts you're having, or which feelings you're having around that overwhelm the need to control? Oh,

Megan Gipson  11:47
yeah. You know, what's funny is I actually, so the thoughts and feelings I'm having around the need to control are and I just had, when you were saying the experience of childhood, I think it's that feeling of like not like, I would hate not getting my homework in like, it would give me physical angst, or if like, I got in trouble about something. And I think that there's a piece of that of like, the shame involved when you're little of like not doing the thing you're supposed to do. Is that the right answer?

Kelly Coulter  12:19
You jump to the end, okay. You're so you're so aware, you know, most some people would come in and just say, No, I need to get all this done. I mean, no one's going to do it, my husband's not going to do it, my kids aren't going to do it, they won't make their own lunch, they'll go to school. And so we would have to slow it down and take it step by step is, what are the thoughts you're having? And the thought would, would be something like, If I don't do it, no one's going to do it. It needs to be done. And it's easier if I just do it myself. Yeah. And, and underneath that is, right, I don't trust anyone else to do it. As well as I'm going to do it. And then probably, underneath that would be that exile child, that saying, If I don't perform, I won't be loved. If I don't perform at this level, my parents won't be pleased with me. Whether your parents ever communicated that to you directly or not, is irrelevant. I don't want parents out there to feel shame about all you know, we're all causing wounds to our children. I am too as a parent, as a therapist, I don't want to I don't mean to, but it happens inadvertently, it could be a message you received from a teacher, you could have enjoyed success. And that felt good. So you know, whatever that reason was, that was the way your protector came in to keep that child safe. So we would go through a process of them saying, Does this part feel like it's hyper arousal or hypo, obviously, it's hyper arousal, right, you're overstimulated, you're maxed out, you know, if it went into hypo arousal, you would be numb and no longer able to perform any of those duties. So if you're still hyper aroused, we would go through that being a combination of fight. And attachment, probably I'm trying to just I'm coming out swinging, I'm not fleeing, then we would talk about what triggered this part. What caused this part to blend with self, Megan. And one of the exercises I love doing to help people get in touch with their self because sometimes we haven't. We haven't experienced our self energy and so long, we either don't think it's there anymore, or we've just forgotten what it felt like, you know, some people are in survival mode for decades, and especially all of us coming out of COVID still might be operating. Very fear based and in survival mode. I am just a side note. I see that a lot with my teens and young adults and see that play out but you know, we would talk about what is triggering this part. To blend with self and the exercise to get into self as I like to have people imagine how they feel. And for me this is especially true and for the clients that I know well is how do you feel when you're with your pet the pet you love, that's when I find myself getting most into self. That's when I'm calm, compassionate, curious if I could make excuses for myself the way I make excuses for my very naughty dog, I would be so competent, you know, but that's, that's the feeling that that's the feeling of self or when you imagine yourself with a favorite person, you know, that's sort of your secure base that we talk about an attachment, who's your secure base? And how do you feel when you're with that person? Or is it? Is it a place, it can be a place, it can be a place like the beach, it can be a place like my backyard on a swing, it could be my bed, whatever it is for you? Where's the place where you're feeling those eight C's that we talked about? And then I'll say, well, that's yourself. So how do we get in touch with that person? How do we get grounded in a place where we can observe this controlling part that's showing up and hijacking, SEL, and we're not trying to get rid of the parts, we never get rid of parts. They're with us. What we try to do is approach them with compassion. We try to understand them, we try to talk to them. And then we try to reassure them, that self can handle it. That's the unblinking part, we try to identify like when you say, you know, little Megan used to get everything done on time, like everything, you know, very perfectionistic performing. How old was Megan? Then? You know, what age do you remember little Megan

Megan Gipson  16:47
12 1314 All the time until I had children.

Kelly Coulter  16:53
So then we would ask that that child part, how old she thinks you are now. And just letting her know that she doesn't need to protect you in that way anymore. That you've got it. There's she needs to trust you. So we're asking her to take a step back. Not disappear. We love her. We don't want her to go away. We just want her her to be happier her to get smaller. It's the healing the inner child work. And but it's a very careful exploration of how to do that in a way that doesn't blame. You know, blame parents blame the world. You know, it takes the anger and resentment out of it because it happened, right life happened, things happened. People were bullied in school, it's atrocious. abuse happens, it shouldn't happen. But the faster we can get to radical acceptance that it did happen. And stop looking to blame, the quicker I think we get to just embrace all of our parts and sort of quiet all that noise.

Megan Gipson  18:01
Love that. So what do you this is kind of specific. But do you give these parts names? When

Kelly Coulter  18:08
I do when I love doing this with kids, this is where I've sort of taken this work and applied it with kids and teens in a way that they can grasp because we can speak abstractly to adults and kind of understand a little better with kids. I have them named their parts and I have them draw it, you know, what do you think she looks like? And it's very indicative to me, if they draw this creature that is hideous and scary, and they're like, Oh, that's my anxious part. You know, I'm gonna name it some, you know, name that conjures up terrible feelings for this kid, then I know that that's not self isn't present. During that moment, if there's, you know, I want them to get to a place where they're drawing and it's like, you know, a kind, sweet, loving person in their life that somehow sometimes just gets a little loud, like we do with our friends. Like, oh, that's so and so love her. But she's having an off day. You know, we need to kind of reassure so the way that they draw is very political. And you can analyze that. I don't ever say it to them, like, oh, you drew her in an angry way. Tell me more about that. It's just, oh, you're still mad at her just sort of sounds like you really don't like her being a part of you. So that's where the work is accepting the part. You know, we we can't move forward until we accept all of our parts.

Megan Gipson  19:31
Yeah, well, that's the book right? So that's where I got excited. You told me about it the book. No bad parts by your shorts, right. He's the one who wrote a book. And I what I think is great about the book is anybody can read it and kind of have a really good understanding of what this work is about. The tricky part for me is that I f 's name internal family systems. Feels like like I wish that it was called No Bad parts are something like a little bit easier to understand. Because I think what he did was basically he was an expert in family therapy, and realize that the parts inside of you kind of have relationships with each other like you might have with a family member or in families. But that's just a real big leap in terms of like, the words, general understanding.

Kelly Coulter  20:21
Yeah, I think it gets confusing, because people can assume you're doing family therapy, family work, but it's in your and I also love that he called it that because it's a way to frame all of our parts as a family, and we want to work together, we want our part, we're not going to try to kick people of our in our family out, we're trying to integrate the family, with better communication, better understanding of all the different family members in our own brain. But I totally

Megan Gipson  20:48
know that's a better way to think about it. And that makes sense to I think it's just, I think it's what created a little bit of a barrier for me to understand, because I was like, Well, I'm missing the family. I don't understand the family. Anyway. So what would you say? Like, what's the basic way that you introduce this to people, like, if you're thinking about doing this with, let's say, like, a teenager, or anybody really, like, what comes to mind is like how you might introduce, here's what we're gonna do? Yeah, so

Kelly Coulter  21:16
I don't even do it that obviously are direct, because I feel like that can be off putting or, you know, I kind of like to backdoor it. So I'm always looking for an entry point to go there. So say someone comes in and says, you know, I'm so anxious, right? I'm, I'm super anxious about a teenager, I'm super anxious about this test coming up, and I can't seem to study, all I'm doing is just watching tick tock for hours, I'm just distracting myself, I can tell they're numbing and disassociating in some unhealthy way. And they'll be like, you know, it sucks. I'm just so I'm so bad at this. I'm such a procrastinator, I can't do it. And as soon as I hear that, like negative self talk, the inner critic, I will step in and say, Stop, talk more about that. Talk to me more about why you think you can't do it, what part of you is showing up right now, and giving you that message. And that's just my entry into what part of you and I do that to try to slowly break will because you know, with teens, we can't just psycho educate it would be really nice if I could give a direct lesson for 50 minutes in a session, but they don't want to be taught to they've been in school all day having teachers talk to them. So I do a lot of listening and then trying to weave it in, in very short. I call it like tick tock bursts. You know, they all have an attention span of like the three minutes at max tick tock. So oh, what part is showing up right now, tell me about that part of you trying to just introduce the idea of it's not all of you. It's not all or nothing. You aren't your thoughts, you aren't your behavior. We all have parts. So it just helps them approach it with more compassion of okay, yeah, so my anxious parts showing up right now. I'm like, Yes. Let's hear from her. What is she saying? So she's giving you all this negative feedback. And that's when I bring it a little bit of CBT. Right. That's all or nothing thinking or that's catastrophic thinking. And then I'll say, I wonder what hurt what she's trying to do. It sounds like she's trying to protect you from something. And they'll say, yeah, she's trying to protect me from stress of not studying, say, oh, gosh, is that working? Because sounds like you're more stressed because of the procrastination. So let's try to find out why she put that strategy in place. That and I'll say, like, sounds like she's trying to be a firefighter and put out this fire. And this fire is this feeling in you that's scared of failure. And she's putting it out by having you disassociate, and procrastinate, and that might have worked when you were younger. If you just avoid, avoid, avoid, but it's not working now. So we need to go and figure out what is happening, why that's happening. Let's talk to that part. Let's thank her for showing up. And then let's ask her to just take a break for a week so we can get through finals. Yeah. So that's sort of how you do a little more direct,

Megan Gipson  24:15
so much sense. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Because I think sometimes trying to describe, even for me, when people describe things to me, like what I just did with you, I need it to be a real circumstance, if it's just in theory of like, there are these firefighters. It's like I needed to be my firefighter to kind of understand it. So that makes a lot of sense. I like that, like how you just kind of

Kelly Coulter  24:38
it has to be relatable and, and well, especially for kids and teens. They're in a egocentric developmental stage. It has to be about them. They don't care about anyone else at the moment. You know, they want to know how does this impact my life and tell me quickly, because I'm not here for a lecture.

Megan Gipson  24:56
Right? Right now that's smart. Yeah, so it's Talking about teens. I know we had talked originally about like using this with teens, what do you find most helpful in your work with teens? Like how does this create I don't know a better connection with you? Or do you help give them language to then talk to their parents? What what do you find is really helpful with this kind of work with teens.

Kelly Coulter  25:19
Both and all. I mean, truly, it's I mostly with teens want to tackle their inner critic that seems to be the stronger a protector, and it's a I say protector, because the inner critic is trying to protect us from anyone else hurting us. If I can criticize myself, first, I beat you to the punch. You know, if I can walk in and say, Oh, my God, look at this hair that I just got done, like, wow, they messed up my roots, or whatever, I've just beat you. If you're thinking it, which I'm going to assume you're thinking it, I beat you to the punch, it's a way to control. So that's how the inner critic can serve to protect. So teens I find will come in and be like, Oh my God, this outfit is so stupid. I hate it. Assuming someone else is already thinking that. So I really try to tackle that inner critic first by helping them understand that that's a part of them. And that those thoughts are not always true. So getting them to not believe every thought that enters their mind, hoping that they won't act on it. So one of the things about the behaviors of our parts is that they become automatic. by the, by the time we notice them, and they're problematic for us. It's like, I call it like psychological muscle memory. It's something that was put in place years ago, in childhood, kind of like riding a bike, this isn't a reflexive response to when we get triggered. Yeah. And so I try to teach teens, gosh, if I can catch them, then it's so much better for the rest of their life. Because it's not, it's not as automatic as it is, and me as a 45 year old. You know, it's, it's only been perfected for a few years for the teams. So I will try to go in and, and help them embrace that inner critic, find out where it came from, in childhood, early childhood, what it's trying to protect them from and get them you know, make it at the bottom. The bottom line for me is the self compassion piece, right? And trying to get teens to, to have some self compassion, and then turn it outward and compassion for others. And for their parents, because a mom or dad may or caregiver may have said something at one point or given a look to a particularly sensitive child, and they've integrated that they've hardwired in now, and and helping them understand that everyone is doing the best they can. And if we can have some compassion for that we can have compassion for ourselves to show that we're doing the best we can and our parts are and you know, I use a lot of with kids, would you say that to your best friend? You know, what if she was in here saying that her hair was hideous, she hated her outfit? She's so stupid, because she made a 94. You know, what would you say to her? Right? And trying to get them to say that to their part, right? Instead of to them? Because I don't want him to think it's all of them. I've, I've shifted my language to what would you say to that part of you?

Megan Gipson  28:27
Yeah. Do you have them? Do you have them actually say it? Or they say it to you? Or do you have them like talk to their part inside?

Kelly Coulter  28:34
It depends on the child. I have some children that gets so creative with it. Sometimes they're like, Okay, I want to empty chair like this tall stuff. Like I want you to sit here and then me here and I'm going to visualize it. I have some that I will have them do like a video diary. Or they'll do a chat. I had one client who made the funniest tic tock about me as a therapist coming for her and it's to that Taylor Swift song, the problem it's me Yeah. And so they find so many creative ways. I don't even feel the pressure to come up with the idea in the moment i i try to get them into their critical thinking because when they're when the amygdala is hijacked, and they're overwhelmed, there's no thinking so I tried to move them into some prefrontal cortex work by saying what are some here's that here's the theory. Here's the idea is that it's a part of you, how do we what do you think is the most creative way we can talk to this part and you can be as goofy and as silly as you want. And then they come out of amygdala emotional overwhelm, and into thinking brain and say, oh my gosh, let's act this out. You be the part or let's, let's draw it. I'm gonna write a story. I'm going to journal about it right now. I'm gonna do a video diary. Whatever it is, I let them sort of brainstorm because it gets them into thinking mode.

Megan Gipson  29:45
Has this I'm just thinking about how I feel like whenever there's a I guess, an approach that I'm using with other people, like does this get you thinking about your parts more to like, do you feel like you're noticing more? Oh, that's this part. That's that part. I mean, I feel like I'll be doing that even just after having this conversation, I'll be more aware. Oh, that's that part.

Kelly Coulter  30:05
Yes. And it's so much. It's been so empowering one to know that we all including myself, have the ability to self heal with self energy that it's there. And also that our parts will show up. It's not as shocking anymore, jolting. It's and this is what I say to my anxious my clients who have a lot of anxiety, anxious part showing up is I say, expect it to show up, you know, she's going to show up, you have a test tomorrow. This is where she likes to get loud and proud and be upfront and take over. So let's not be surprised, let's go ahead and expect her welcome her say Oh, hey there, Susie, whatever you want to name or thanks for coming. But remember, I've got this I've prepared I've studied. So it's all techniques that we've used this, what I love about ifs is it just integrates so well with any other modality that you use. And absolutely with self, I have been noticing it so much in my parenting and not. And being aware of oh, this controlling part is showing up right now. And it's become an and it's just my protector trying to protect my, my own personal child from experiencing what my inner child experienced. So I'm trying to save them from any harm that can come of them. But I'm, I'm trying to control that. Too much. That part needs to settle down. I need to trust myself energy. And most importantly, I need to trust my children. Yeah. I love that just really hard.

Megan Gipson  31:41
Yes, indeed. Well, I think I was, who was I talking to? I was talking to a friend recently about how it's interesting as the parent of older kids, where you have more of the memories of who you were at that age. And when I'm younger, I don't have as many I mean, I have, you know, a few snapshots. But as I you know, those teen years, I have a lot of memories. And so it's I feel like it gets a little bit even more dicey with.

Kelly Coulter  32:09
Yeah, that's fascinating. The trigger the trigger will be stronger. Because and, and when I talk to other parents with teenagers, like I have, by I often hear them say, Well, when I was a teen, I was doing X, Y and Z. So I know that's what they're doing. Or when I was a teen, I didn't do that. So this is all new to me. But it's so much comparison. And and those are our parts showing up in a way that you're right. I didn't Yeah, it's just so much more real. When we have exhausting. It's really, really tiring, like tired part is for sure hired

Megan Gipson  32:43
part as well. I love this and I excited to learn more about it. What else do you think people need to know about ifs? Like, if somebody's like, Oh, I'm listening to this? Maybe this is for me, maybe it's not for me? What else do you think people should know? How would they go about finding somebody that does this kind of work?

Kelly Coulter  33:05
Yeah, they should know that it is for everyone. And I know that sounds I would not say that about all the practices that I employ. You know, I know when to pick and choose which modality I'm going to use with which client this one in is for I feel like anyone to do and yeah, it's for humans. And I think, you know, to find someone you can look at most therapists on their websites, list their modalities, or you can always ask your own therapist, do you have any training in ifs, there's ifs certifications to and probably on the website, you can find ifs different levels of certifications that therapists have, but, you know, with with some good solid training in it, you know, your therapists could do integrate ifs into whatever existing treatment you're already doing. I am I just I, I love it so much. I find it really resonates. And it really, to me on a fundamental level aligned with my beliefs for decades as a therapist and gave me the language. I always used to say things like like when people want a diagnosis right away. What's my diagnosis? I think a lot of my teens that's on Tik Tok. You know, there's this and I think I have this now. And I always try to educate them about pathology and diagnostic codes and how we we don't we don't want to jump to that. But this has given me language like oh, it's a part of you. Yeah, a part of you is really depressed right now. Part of you is really anxious not to say that there aren't people out there with valid diagnosis but it's I just love the acceptance part of it and not making it a bad thing, right. No bad part. We all have parts. Some of them may not be serving us well anymore but approaching them with with love and kindness.

Megan Gipson  34:53
Yeah. And it I feel like it allows for so much more like nuance of the human experience. It's like, you're not just I'm a depressed person walking around, you're there's a part of you that has that happening. And here's what we can talk about. It just, I feel like it allows people, it almost allows for more of that growth mindset. Because if it's only a part of you, then there's all these other things that can grow and get stronger. Also, instead of just like, it's a done deal, this is just who I am, I guess I just have to live with it. You know,

Kelly Coulter  35:24
exactly. It can get very defeatist. And instead this, this, to me gives hope and empowerment. And a really cool nuance for parts work is the generational wounds, and doing work around things that you would have no memory of things, you know, racism, systemic racism, that could have happened years ago to, you know, generational stuff. I mean, obviously, it's still happening today, systemically, but that kind of wound that's been passed down through the DNA. Right. Yeah. And accessing that.

Megan Gipson  35:58
That's so it's incredible. I am excited to learn more about it. I so one thing I wanted to just go back to what you were talking about that unblended from self, like, what are some activities that help unblended from self? Like, like, so if you're, if you're anxious part is so it meshed with who you are as yourself, what are some what are some ways I mean, as part of it, just doing this kind of talking and continually creating the idea that it is separate from you? Or how does that

Kelly Coulter  36:31
work? Yeah, it starts with the mapping our parts out, okay. And what the therapists job is ifs calls the five EPS. So the therapist helps the client find the part. And you can do this on your own depending on how aware you are, how skilled you are, and how loud the part is, you know, find it, focus on it, flesh it out, feel it, and then befriend it. So that is that is a very oversimplification of a very deep and long, emotional process. But yes, it's about practice. And it's about the hardest part for that I've seen for people around this is when it gets to the point of befriending it, because, you know, the, the managers, again, people, like they're productive. They're getting stuff done for us. But the other parts of us people don't, they're angry at that part of them. They don't want that part to show up. It doesn't feel good, it feels overwhelming. And so does the manager part to the perfectionist part can get draining and exhausting. To the outside world. It looks great, but it's doesn't feel great for the person and, and really, people don't want to get to the exile. That's where the deep shame is. And that's brings up some painful memories sometimes.

Yeah. But yeah, it's about getting curious. Yeah,

Megan Gipson  37:56
I like that. I'd like to be friends. I mean, I think that'd be frightening. It sounds like what you're saying is it's not easy, but it reminds me of like, I mean, it's like the squeaky wheel, right? Like, it's like, if you don't say hey, what you're saying about the anxious part showing up on test day. If you're not like gonna expect to be like, ah, Susie, hey, you're hearing it on test day. If you're like, trying to keep Susie out trying to keep Susie out, it creates all this intensity within you. And you're trying to constantly fight Susie to not show up on test day, instead of like, hey, Susie,

welcome. Yeah, yeah. Good to see you. Good. Susie. Yeah,

Kelly Coulter  38:37
yeah, that's exactly right. Maybe. And that's when we see people internalizing strong feelings and they end up coming out in other ways. They end up coming out in harmful ways. Yeah. You know, panic attacks, self harm, binging compulsive behaviors. It's it's that pressing down and fighting against your own system. Yeah.

Yep. And it's,

Kelly Coulter  39:00
it's careful to because if you say embrace it, and befriend it, that doesn't mean let it take over. Like earlier when you were saying, Well, this is who I am. I'm just an anxious perfectionist deal with it. Like that's not we don't want to function from that place, either. We want to be itself. Yeah.

Megan Gipson  39:17
Yeah, the visuals are so helpful for me like even talking about like Suzy on test day. Like, where would Susie sit? Like she could have a seat. You can sit down, we got this. But she's not going to be like at the same place that you're sitting for the test. She's not going to be like, up in the front. No, it's fascinating. I love I love talking about it. I love learning about it. And what I like, especially as a therapist is that it's not, I think to be excellent at it, I'm sure is a lot. But there are some very simple techniques that I think you can integrate. And like you said, you can probably start thinking about it for yourself, even if you're not working with a therapist. If you're listening today and you're like, maybe this is something you know, so start looking into it. little bit more, read the book, no bad parts, learn a little bit more about what that technique is about. Well, for

Kelly Coulter  40:06
the therapist, the most challenging part in becoming ifs trained is knowing your own parts. And when they show up in the therapy room, which we have to be constantly, you know, tracking and making sure our parts take a step back, you know, I find that with teams, when I hear someone doing something that my team is likely doing, I have to think, Okay, this part is showing up for me now step away your we don't need you here. Now. That's that's the mom part. And let's stay in this place with this client.

Megan Gipson  40:36
Yes. It's interesting. I was just listening to this is not a continuous. This is not a paid ad, but maybe it should be. It's that clearly political podcast with yellow, the Irving Yalom, who did all the group therapy work. And he's, he's 90 now. And he was talking about self disclosure, but it's interesting, because he's 90. So he's like, I'm gonna tell everybody every you know, I mean, he's basically saying that sharing all of your parts with the other person in the room is helpful. And it's just interesting thinking about, like, at what age you are, and how much you allow yourself to reveal, you know, anyway, I'm kind of getting off topic, but it's it. I might just edit that part out. That's like a random tangent. Anyway, well, what else? Anything else you were hoping I'd ask you about that. I have not asked you about?

Kelly Coulter  41:34
Oh, I think we covered it, you know, as much as we can. This time. It's a very complicated theory, but I, I love the language around it. And I think it can be understood quite easily. And definitely people should explore it and that no bad part is a great start. In accepting all your parts.

Megan Gipson  41:51
Yes. Well, I think you did a great job of making it seem more approachable. Yeah. And because I think it is, I think, to be skillful, and to be like, you know, be able to work with people. It takes a lot of training. But I think there's also a way to help people sort of start to think about this. Is it something that might be helpful to me? Where can people find more information about you? I know you're a fantastic public speaker.

Kelly Coulter  42:18
My website, Kelly Coulter

Megan Gipson  42:21
All right. Sounds good. Well, thank you so much for joining me today.

Kelly Coulter  42:25
Thank you for having me. It's always a blast.

Megan Gipson  42:27
You've gotten me excited about this kind of work. So thank you.

Kelly Coulter  42:30
No problem. Have a good day.

Bye. Bye.

Megan Gipson  42:39
Thanks for listening to this episode of The Family brain. If you've thought of someone you know, while you were listening, I would love it if you would share this episode with them. And if you really loved it, you could leave a five star review that helps people find the show and spread the word. Thanks so much for listening.

Learn more about Kelly Coulter, PLLC

Resources Discussed

  • Book "No Bad Parts"
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