Richard Schwartz

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Richard Schwartz began his career as a systemic family therapist and an academic. He co-authored, with Michael Nichols, Family Therapy: Concepts and Methods, the most widely used family therapy text in the U.S.  Dr. Schwartz was Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Institute for Juvenile Research and later at The Family Institute at Northwestern University.

Grounded in systems thinking, Dr. Schwartz developed Internal Family Systems SM 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.  He found that when in that state of Self, clients would know how to heal their parts.

This approach to psychotherapy suggested alternative ways of understanding psychic functioning and healing, and lent itself to innovative techniques for relieving clients’ suffering and symptoms.  IFS is a nonpathologizing, hopeful framework within which to practice psychotherapy.

In 2000, Richard Schwartz founded the Center for Self Leadership in Oak Park, Illinois. CSL offers three levels of training in IFS, workshops for professionals and for the general public, an annual national conference, publications, and DVDs of Dr. Schwartz’s work through its web site at IFS trainings and workshops are also being held in several European countries.

A featured speaker for national professional organizations, Dr. Schwartz serves on editorial boards of four professional journals.  He has published five books and over fifty articles about IFS. His books include: You Are The One You’ve Been Waiting For: Bringing Courageous Love to Intimate RelationshipsInternal Family Systems Therapy;  Introduction to the Internal Family Systems Model;  and The Mosaic Mind: Empowering the Tormented Selves of Child Abuse Survivors (with Regina Goulding);  as well as Metaframeworks (with Doug Breunlin and Betty Karrer), about transcending current models of family therapy.

The Quote

All parts are welcome and valuable.
Richard Schwartz, PhD

What Led to the Specialization of Trauma?

When Richard was young he would sometimes accompany his father to the pediatric psychiatric unit where he worked. There he’d often listen to the kids on the unit complain about the therapy they were receiving. At that point Richard thought to himself, There must be another way.

A Crucial Early Mistake

Richard talks about how early on in his career he felt the need (consistent with the psychological theories of the times) to find the client’s pain as quickly as possible and attack it.

Richard’s Why

When I’m doing this work I feel so privileged that my client’s have let me in. Also, now I have a mission to pump the fear of doing this work that’s been driven into so many therapists.

Richard’s advice

  • Stay curious.
  • Don’t believe a lot of what you were taught.
  • Traust that even very severely diagnosed clients have the essence of the Self just beneath the surface and find ways to access that.
  • Don’t fear the activities of the parts and realize they are just trying their best.

Richard’s go-to books

Richard’s books

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Interview Links

Christina Hibbert
Crystal Arber

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