Introduction to IFS with Children

By Pamela Krause, LCSW, ACSW, “IFS with Children & Adolescents” Topic Expert Contributor

Hello, and welcome to the IFS with Children & Adolescents column, which focuses on applying the IFS Model to non-adults. This column is designed to be a place to share ideas, techniques, questions, and stories that relate to working with a younger population.

By way of introduction, my name is Pamela Krause. I was trained in the IFS Model in 1998 and have been a lead trainer for the Center for Self Leadership (CSL) since 2005. I have a private practice near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where I see children, adolescents, and adults.

From my earliest work with the IFS Model, I have been devoted to finding ways to apply it to play therapy and work with younger adolescents. Many younger clients can use the Model in the same ways that adults do. However, I’ve noticed a significant population of younger kids who seemed to “get” the Model but who can’t do in-sight as some many adolescents and adults can. It’s this population that has been the focus of my curiosity and, I imagine, yours as well.

Over the years, I have developed some strategies and techniques for applying the Model to those in the younger population who aren’t able to do traditional in-sight. I’m also aware that many of you have done the same. What we have been lacking is a way to share our ideas, ask questions, and gain support from others in our community. I see this column as a place for us to connect, feel supported, and enrich ourselves and our work.

I was recently asked by the folks at CSL to write a short article on this very topic. I put together a brief overview of the ways in which I conceptualize the application of the IFS Model to working with children. The article, titled “IFS with Children,” focuses primarily on play therapy, but the same concepts can be applied to work with adolescents. That article seems like a good starting point for this column.

I’m excited about this venture and look forward to hearing from all of you.

6 Responses to “Introduction to IFS with Children”

  1. Gail Tomala says:

    Pamela,

    I enjoyed your article, especially the examples you shared and your description and interpretation of the childrens’ parts as acted out during play.

    I am an MFT working in an urban school in Hartford, CT (grades preK-8) and am planning to develop what I call an IFS curriculum for use with our students by the MFT interns who are working with me.

    I just introduced IFS to all of the teachers in June at an afterschool workshop. Because there has been a very big interest on the part of the students to come to my office to work with me, I will be working with them IN their classrooms so that I can introduce the concept of unblending to more children. Daily student requests (especially during lunchtime) led me to propose moving IFS beyond our MFT office.

    I told Dick about my work and future plans, and he has asked me to present at the Boston conference. So, I really look forward to further communications with you and to meeting you in Boston. I’m confident that we have much information to share with each other!

    Gail Tomala

  2. Lois Ehrmann says:

    Hi Pam,

    I read your article about working with children and adolescents, and I really enjoyed it. I’ve been using IFS with children and teens and also in the context of attachment-focused family therapy for a number of years now. I’ve had similar experiences as you, in that children seem to engage in the process through play very easily and naturally. I appreciated the play therapy room rules that you listed, too. Thanks for sharing all the various examples.

    Lois Ehrmann

  3. Jody Nelson says:

    Hi Pamela,

    I just discovered your blog and enjoyed reading your article very much. The case examples were very helpful. I supervise two therapists working with children, and I did not have a path in my mind for bringing IFS into their play therapy work – now I do! I have been in email conversation with Gail Tomala regarding her IFS work in schools – the vision of a Self-led school is so exciting! Thanks for being willing to put your work out there in this way. You inspire me to keep working on my own use of IFS with teens and adults who care for them.

    • Gail Tomala says:

      HI Jody,
      Hope to see you in Providence in October where I will be presenting again. Let’s stay in touch!
      Gail T

  4. Chad Seagle says:

    I read your article and I was wondering if you have any suggestions to introducing IFS in a group setting with teenagers like a youth group at church. Thank you!

  5. Gail Tomala says:

    Hello, Chad

    Regarding your April question to Pamela Krause about introducing IFS to groups of teens, FYI:

    At the national IFS conference in Providence in Oct, I will be co-presenting a workshop on introducing Unblending skills to adults and children that should interest you. If you cannot attend, I am also co-authoring a curriculum guide on this topic that I hope will be available within the next 6 months.

    Gail Tomala

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