1st Edition

Internal Family Systems Therapy for Shame and Guilt

By Martha Sweezy, Richard C. Schwartz Copyright 2023

    Rich in clinical examples, this book offers a fresh perspective on the roles of shame and guilt in psychological distress and presents a step-by-step framework for treatment. Martha Sweezy explains how the principles of Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy are ideally suited to helping trauma survivors and other clients who struggle with debilitating shame to understand and heal psychic parts wounded in childhood. Annotated case illustrations show and explain IFS techniques in action. Other useful features include boxed therapeutic exercises, decision trees, and pointers to help therapists avoid or overcome common pitfalls.

    See also Internal Family Systems Therapy, Second Edition, by Richard C. Schwartz and Martha Sweezy, the authoritative presentation of IFS.

    Foreword, Richard C. Schwartz
    I. The Vulnerable Mind
    1. Shame, Guilt, and Psychic Multiplicity
    2. The Goal
    3. All the Ways We Say No
    4. The Shame Cycle
    5. Empathy
    6. Shame-Based Trauma Bonding: The Child Who Shares Shamefulness
    7. Guilt-Based Trauma Bonding: The Child Who Takes Responsibility
    II. Treatment
    The First Portion of Therapy
    8. Set the Stage
    9. Unblend
    10. Navigate Obstacles to Unblending
    The Second Portion of Therapy
    11. Witness and Unburden
    12. Common Problems
    13. Take a Tip to Avoid Pitfalls
    III. Completion
    14. How Therapy Ends


    Martha Sweezy, PhD, is Assistant Professor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, part-time, and Research, Training, and Curriculum Consultant at the Center for Mindfulness and Compassion, Cambridge Health Alliance, where she consults and supervises in a study using Internal Family Systems (IFS) groups to treat posttraumatic stress disorder. She teaches on IFS, shame, and guilt nationally and internationally, and has a private psychotherapy practice in Northampton, Massachusetts. Dr. Sweezy has published articles in peer-reviewed journals and has coedited or coauthored several books and treatment manuals on IFS.

    “Focuses on what I believe is the most primal, terrifying, toxic, and motivating of all burdens: shame….[The book] clarifies the crucial differences between shame and guilt, as well as between adaptive and maladaptive guilt.…[It] offers lucid case examples and experiential exercises that are tailored for resolving guilt and unburdening shame and that add nuance and insight to the basics of IFS."--from the Foreword by Richard C. Schwartz, PhD, Developer of IFS; Adjunct Faculty, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School

    "Shame and guilt are integral to the experience of complex trauma and are among the effects most resistant to change. This volume is particularly pertinent for therapists who want to interrupt intergenerational cycles of trauma that are often fueled by shame and guilt. Whether or not the reader has a background in IFS, this book convincingly makes the case for the relevance and power of this approach. I am already finding it extremely useful in my practice with trauma survivors, and am excited to learn even more about this system of thought."--Pamela C. Alexander, PhD, private practice, Sherborn, Massachusetts

    "IFS is a compelling model that is capturing the imagination of therapists around the world, especially for the treatment of trauma. IFS is simple and elegant, but there is an art to its application. Sweezy is an artist who explains why and how she applies each brushstroke. With remarkable clarity and sophistication, the author untangles the inner dynamics of shame and guilt, and shows how to address a client's unmet needs compassionately in therapy. This book is generous and deep--no reader will be left untouched."--Christopher Germer, PhD, Co-Founder, Center for Mindful Self-Compassion

    "This landmark book takes a deep dive into a central topic for all psychotherapists--how to address the pernicious effects of shame and inappropriate guilt on a person's sense of self, psychological functioning, and interpersonal behavior. Sweezy applies IFS theory and practice in exquisite detail, with illuminating clinical vignettes. Her approach is novel and refreshingly nonpathologizing and compassionate. The book shows how to help clients come to view their harsh internal voices as their best attempts to protect the vulnerable core Self, and learn to forge a path of reconciliation among these parts and the Self. This is a complex, nuanced process requiring close attention and creativity on the part of the therapist, but Sweezy provides a clear map with which to traverse this emotionally fraught territory."--Peter Fraenkel, PhD, Department of Psychology, The City College of the City University of New York

    "This book is a welcome, inspiring guide for all therapists who have struggled with the limitations of pathologizing DSM-based approaches to psychotherapy, in which the therapist is expected to have 'the answers.' Based on her deep experience with IFS, Sweezy wisely focuses on symptom domains such as shame or guilt, rather than on specific disorders. The book reminds us that the answers reside within each individual, and gives powerful examples of how IFS allows individuals to discover their own paths to healing."--Michael Mithoefer, MD, Senior Medical Director for Medical Affairs, Training, and Supervision, MAPS Public Benefit Corporation-