What’s the difference?

Before we dive into today’s topic, I first want to mention this post is not an attempt to devalue talk therapy. Nor should it be taken as a criticism of therapists who practice talk therapy as their primary clinical approach. I’m simply stating my professional opinion as a therapist who practices both methods. I want to create a scenario to help potential clients understand the differences between the two therapy methods.

Let’s imagine you’ve been seeing a therapist for a few months. You come in every Wednesday at 4 p.m. You sit down on the comfy sofa, sip on a hot cup of tea, and your therapist initiates the session by asking, “So, how’s it going this week?” Then you spend the next 50 minutes sharing all the events from your week while your therapist listens attentively, nodding and adding a few “um-hums.” The 50 minutes conclude, you receive a few tips on how to cope with the week’s stressors and then schedule the next week’s appointment. This scenario describes a basic talk therapy approach. Talk therapy is where you have a safe, neutral, and confidential space to outwardly express whatever you need to process. The therapist typically will be very compassionate, ask open-ended questions, and track your progress. Via your own verbal expressions, you will gain insight, see patterns, and purge your emotions/thoughts. Many teenagers benefit from this type of therapy, but it is also valuable for adults, especially those who don’t have a safe support system. It can also be effective for those going through a major life crisis or transition. Having a safe place to talk about these experiences can be incredibly helpful.

Now let’s discuss a different type of therapy called internal healing, inner healing, or more formally known as “Internal Family Systems” therapy.  Suppose you have been in talk therapy for several months, but you’re beginning to feel like it’s no longer as helpful as it once was. If this happens, you may be ready to explore inner healing therapy. This type of work is nothing like talk therapy because it’s not about outwardly processing your week/life events. The goal of this work is to help you have a deeper understanding of yourself and the various aspects of who you are. It’s also designed to help you unburden the negative beliefs and feelings you may have been carrying all your life.

For example, if you have felt unworthy most of your life, internal therapy will help you visit these beliefs safely and relieve them. You may be asking yourself, “How does it work?” Great question! Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy helps you safely interact with the emotional pain of unworthiness. It allows you to get to know it better, guides you to appreciate why it’s been there for so long, and eventually gets you to the point of where you will be able to release its lies. A trained IFS therapist will accompany and assist you during the process. Internal therapy should be viewed as a methodical process rather than a venting process. You will be asked to focus on emotions/thoughts/memories, and your therapist will help you to safely explore them so you can get to a place of healing. You’ll be guided by using the right questions to ask yourself, and your therapist will know what to do if other thoughts or feelings arise in an attempt to block your process. Sounds weird? Maybe, but it is usually very healing. And once you get used to the flow of how it works it won’t be so strange. When you experience what it’s like to help your heart release the old lies or pain you have been carrying most of your life, it’s no longer weird. It is transformational.  I am a trained IFS level 2 therapist, and I would be happy to share more about how this process works. I also practice talk therapy, and would be glad to provide it for you should you feel more drawn to that method.

If you have been in therapy for a while and you are frustrated with your growth, I would highly encourage you to seek support from a trained IFS therapist–or call me! If you are a spiritual person of faith and you want to interact with God as part of your inner healing process, I invite you to call me; I will happily include subjects regarding belief and faith into your inner healing counseling journey. Wherever you are in your journey–I can meet you there.

Photo by Vanessa- “There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~Anaïs Nin