My Response to the Announcement that IFS has been listed in SAMHSA’s National Register of Evidence-based Programs and Practices

Nancy Sowell, MSW, LICSW

Looking back, I realize the leap of faith that Nancy Shadick, MD, MPH, principal investigator of the study, took in bringing a mental health clinician into the Division of Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston to study the efficacy of IFS with rheumatoid arthritis patients. This is a medical setting. Having clinical social workers provide treatment for medical patients was not common place. For her courage and vision, I’m deeply grateful.

The IFS groups I ran during the research project illustrated the renewed possibility and hope that comes with self-empowerment. Living with chronic pain, the study participants had learned to “bottle it up.” They had grown isolated from themselves and from others. Learning to focus inside and listen to their body was a radical shift. Using IFS, they gradually moved from chronic states of dissociation to tolerating greater awareness of sensation, emotion, and growing self-compassion. They became calmer. Kindness opened toward the fear and pain inside. Self-care behavior improved.

This was a tender and moving process to guide and witness. Alleviating suffering is an honor and a poignant reward for health and mental health professionals. To then learn that, based on our published research study, IFS had been categorized as an evidence-based treatment, was a monumental event for me—affirming and deeply gratifying. IFS had finally been put on the map.

All of us who have been using IFS for many years have finally received validation for our practice. Clinicians working in treatment settings that haven’t sanctioned the use of IFS in their programs can now make a stronger case for doing so. The inclusion of IFS in training programs by educational institutions and among reimbursable treatments by insurers is more easily defended. What we have known anecdotally has now become credible. Acknowledgement in the value of IFS by a governing institution with far-reaching impact and the power to open new opportunities is especially sweet.