IFS Therapy Firefighters


In IFS therapy, Firefighters are the less glamorous protector parts. Contrary to the proactive Managers, Firefighters are reactive. They jump into action after exiles get triggered. Their motto is “When all else fails”. They use radical strategies, appear frantic, impulsive, destructive, and are largely rejected by society.

The role of firefighters seen by IFS therapy

Firefighters intervene anytime the system is thrown out of balance. They fear the parts they protect will get hurt. And if they get hurt, they may get overwhelmed and die. In order to minimize pain Firefighters may fight, flee or freeze no matter the cost. They may use extreme strategies like cutting, binging, and purging. They may even want to end life in order to stop suffering.
As they often experience harsh critique and even hatred from multiple parts of the clients’ system and from people around, they are often afraid they will be eliminated if they do not perform.

A protective system is crucial to survival. Yet, if some parts are forced into action before the person is ready, or skilled enough, to handle that level of distress, parts adopt quite extreme roles to fight the pain that couldn’t be avoided. Protective strategies that were the best option when they were created are no longer beneficial today.

In IFS therapy, the practitioner or therapist wants to continually scan the system for any resistance, make room for any dissent or fear, and allow each part that has concerns regarding inner work to express freely. So each anxiety can be addressed and clarified until enough trust is built to safely proceed further. And no part gets startled and feels the need to overwhelm during the process.

Why appreciation to the firefighter is so important?

Understanding the intention of protection makes it easier to express appreciation to the firefighter and build a self to part report. Once the part is seen, understood, and appreciated in its effort to help, it often becomes more collaborative. Facilitating this understanding is one of the tasks of the therapist or practitioner.

Protector parts are experts at handling the hurt but not experts at healing.
Once there is enough trust, the firefighter will allow the therapist or practitioner to accompany the client and work with the protected part. When the protected part – the Exile is successfully freed from the pain it holds, the firefighter will be free to choose a less extreme role. And it will bring more balance and healing to the whole system.

Do you want to learn more about IFS therapy?
Get access to our free 3-day IFS Online Intro Course.

Founder of Life Architect
Michael Pasterski is founder of Life Architect, Planets and Foundation for Conscious Education He is also the author of the “Insight. Road to Mental Maturity” book and blog about psychology and personal development which are read by more than a million people a year. You will find English version of blog on Pasterski.com. Every day he works as a coach and personal development trainer.

Join discussion: