Date of Award


Degree Level





St. Mary's University

Document Type



Internal family systems (IFS) is a meta-model of psychotherapy growing in popularity in the United States and internationally. In this process-oriented model, the psychotherapist supports clients in getting into relationship with parts of their experience to offer relief for aspects of themselves that have been stuck in tiring protective roles and provide corrective experiences for vulnerable aspects of themselves that have been stuck with limting beliefs and overwhelming feelings.

Coinciding with the IFS model's increased popularity, the evidence base for the efficacy of psychotherapists using IFS with clients continues to increase. In 2015, the United States Department of Health and Human Service's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration added IFS to their registry of evidence-based practices. As the IFS model gains more recognition, professionals are applying it to more fields and in more specific ways within the mental health world. The researcher's interest lies in the mental health applications of IFS and how it applies to supervision, in particular.

Supervision has been and continues to be an integral part of mental health professionals' education and support system. The purpose of this study was to form a grounded theory for supervision informed by the internal family systems model of psychotherapy. Gathering information regarding the process of IFS informed supervision was a two-step process. First, a pilot study was conducted of IFS trainers using a free response survey. Five trainers confirmed that IFS is applied to supervision and described some of their process when they supervise. The second step involved interviewing seven certified IFS psychotherapists who reported using the IFS model to inform their supervision practice.

From these supervisors, the most significant elements that distinguish supervision informed by IFS are: the goal of developing Self leadership; the collaborative nature of the relationship; the ongoing contracting for what will be explored, how it will be explored, and to what depth; a process called unblending to the support supervisee becoming confident, receptive, and curious; the language used and how it facilitates supervisees exploring their own side of an impasse in their psychotherapy practice; and the role of the supervisor's Self leadership in detecting and working with their own parts while simultaneously interacting with their supervisee(s) and assisting the supervisee in detecting and working with developing relationships with their parts. The process of IFS informed supervision formed described in this study may benefit supervisors currently supervising informed by IFS, psychotherapists working from an IFS perspective who wish to supervise informed by IFS, supervisors practicing from other perspectives curious about extending or reflecting on their form of practice, and those interested in the training of supervisors.