Richard earned his Ph.D. in marriage and family therapy from Purdue University, and became an associate professor at the Institute for Juvenile Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and more recently at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, attaining the status of associate professor at both institutions.
He began his career as a systemic family therapist and an academic. Grounded in systems thinking, Dr. Schwartz developed Internal Family Systems (IFS) in response to clients’ descriptions of various parts within themselves. He focused on the relationships among these parts and noticed that there were systemic patterns to the way they were organized across clients. He also found that when the clients’ parts felt safe and were allowed to relax, the clients would experience spontaneously the qualities of confidence, openness, and compassion that Dr. Schwartz came to call the Self.
CREATION OF INTERNAL FAMILY SYSTEMS
The Internal Family Systems Model (IFS) has evolved over the past twenty years into a comprehensive approach that includes guidelines for working with individuals, couples, and families. The IFS Model represents a new synthesis of two already-existing paradigms: systems thinking and the multiplicity of the mind. It brings concepts and methods from the structural, strategic, narrative, and Bowenian schools of family therapy to the world of subpersonalities. This synthesis was the natural outcome that evolved after I, as a young, fervent family therapist, began hearing from my clients about their inner lives. Once I was able to set aside my preconceived notions about therapy and the mind, and began to really listen to what my clients were saying, what I heard repeatedly were descriptions of what they often called their “parts” — the conflicted subpersonalities that resided within them.
The IFS Model, which evolved as a result of this exploration, views a person as containing an ecology of relatively discrete minds, each of which has valuable qualities and each of which is designed to — and wants to — play a valuable role within. These parts are forced out of their valuable roles, however, by life experiences that can reorganize the system in unhealthy ways. A good analogy is an alcoholic family in which the children are forced into protective and stereotypic roles by the extreme dynamics of their family. While one finds similar sibling roles across alcoholic families (e.g., the scapegoat, mascot, lost child), one does not conclude that those roles represent the essence of those children. Instead, each child is unique and, once released from his or her role by intervention, can find interests and talents separate from the demands of the chaotic family. The same process seems to hold true for internal families — parts are forced into extreme roles by external circumstances and, once it seems safe, they gladly transform into valuable family members.
AWARDS AND ACCOLADES
Richard was named ‘Leader of the Year’ at the SBC Awards North America 2021.
PUBLICATIONS AND BOOKS
Internal Family Systems Therapy
Introduction to the Internal Family Systems Model
The Essentials of Family Therapy
You are the One You’ve Been Waiting for: Bringing Courageous Love to Intimate Relationships
Family Therapy: Pearson New International Edition PDF EBook: Concepts and Methods
Greater Than the Sum of Our Parts: Discovering Your True Self Through Internal Family Systems Therapy
Unburdening the Self: The Promise of Internal Family Systems Therapy
SOCIAL MEDIA CONTACTS