Parts Therapy review
(9 min read)

Helen McLucas

Helen McLucas

Parts Therapy invites us to explore the lively inner committee that governs our thoughts, feelings and behaviours through the often comical and baffling world of our inner parts. Parts Therapy is enjoyable, enlightening and engaging.

Image by Enrique Meseguer
Image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay

Parts Therapy is a rapid, effective and relaxed therapy, compared to other, more structured therapeutic modalities, emphasising collaboration, empowerment, and the individual's inherent capacity for positive change by recognising the client's current resources. Importantly, when working with an experienced Parts Therapist, the parts are healed.

Have you ever said, 'I'm of two minds on this' or 'A part of me wants to go to the party, but another part wants to stay home?' These are examples of parts in action and, in this case, parts of you that are in conflict, perhaps a conservative part versus an adventurous part.

Apart from your parts being in conflict, they can also be based on emotions or behaviours. For example:

  • A panic attack is an emotional response. The person knows that they are not in control during a panic attack. If they are not in control, who is? An anxious part.
  • People-pleasing is a behavioural response when a part learns, through repeated behaviour, that this is the best way for them to feel loved and needed.

Parts Therapy history

Parts Therapy has a diverse history, drawing on foundational psychodynamic1 and psychoanalytical2 concepts, transactional models, NLP, and gestalt principles:

  1. Freudian Psychoanalysis3 (late 19th to early 20th century):
    • Introduction of the unconscious mind.
    • Emphasis on inner conflicts and dynamic interplay between different parts of the psyche.
  2. John Watkins' Foundations of Psychodynamic concepts and early Parts and Ego State Therapy4 (post-World War II, based on his work with war veterans):
    • Development of Hypnosis to treat PTSD (p13). Refer to his book Hypnotherapy of war neuroses: a clinical psychologist's casebook. He is also known as the grandfather in the field of hypnotherapy and hypno-analysis (p.14).
    • Emergence of Parts Therapy working with patients with paranoid schizophrenia (p.15).
    • Emergence of Ego States (pp. 21 and 27).
  3. Transactional Analysis5 (1950s-1960s):
    • Eric Berne's model of Parent, Adult, and Child ego states.
    • Influence on later developments in psychotherapy focused on internal states.
  4. Gestalt Therapy6 (1950s-1960s):
    • Fritz Perls' emphasis on integrating fragmented aspects of the self.
    • Contributed to the broader exploration of the self and its various parts.
  5. NLP Integration of Parts Therapy7 (1970s-present):
    • Bandler and Grinder's work with conflicting parts, including Satir's Parts Party and the Gestalt Empty Chair8.
    • Use of symbolic representations (image, colour, sound, gesture).
    • Techniques include visual squash, six-step reframing, and meta-mirror.
  6. Internal Family Systems (IFS)9 Therapy (1980s-present):
    • Dr. Richard Schwartz introduced the concept of sub-personalities or parts.
    • Emphasises the concept of the 'Self' as the undamaged and resourceful core within each person with the self's role as a guide to healing parts.
    • Categorises parts into roles: Exiles, Manager, and Firefighters.
    • Focus on facilitating communication and harmony between parts.
  7. Resource Therapy10 (2000s-present):
    • Gordon Emmerson's Resource Therapy is an advancement on Ego State Therapy and draws on the work of Pierre Janet, and Edwardo Weiss.
    • Recognises that individuals have unique psychological parts. These parts are seen as positive resources that, once healed, add value to the individual's life.
    • Parts are addressed directly and moved from a pathological unhealthy state to a healthy one.
    • Resource Therapy has straightforward Diagnostic Criteria and Treatment Actions.
    • Parts are seen as 'Internal Resources' capable of healing, growth, and positive change. Resource Therapy is not only about healing; it's about empowering each part to play its most effective role in our lives.

Matrix Timeline and Inner Child Therapy share similarities with Parts Therapy but are distinct approaches. However, the three therapies acknowledge and work with different aspects of the self for healing and personal development.

The recent evolution of IFS and Resource Therapy represent key milestones in the development of a more nuanced approach to Parts Therapy within the broader landscape of psychotherapy. Each model emphasises the importance of recognising and working compassionately with different aspects of the self to promote healing and integration.

While IFS focuses on increasing SELF-energy and unburdening wounded parts, RT emphasises direct engagement with wounded parts for healing and empowerment.11


Our lives unfold like a movie, offering us the unique ability to rewind into our past and fast forward into our future.

Embracing self-awareness serves as the ultimate script-editing tool, empowering us to carefully cut out scenes we don't enjoy, be it our thoughts, emotions, or behaviours, and enhance the ones we do want. While we can't alter the past, we can certainly learn from it, and shape our future narrative in the way we desire through self-awareness and resource building. By identifying and understanding these internal 'parts' we pave the way for greater self-acceptance, compassion, and self-love.

This self-awareness becomes a key to unravelling automatic behaviours, allowing us to step into the role of observer of our thoughts, emotions and behaviours, where we challenge our incongruities, and initiate desired changes.


Parts Therapy empowers people by helping them recognize their own internal resources and strengths, a key in IFS and Resource Therapy. It encourages personal agency and self-efficacy in addressing challenges and making positive changes, shifting the client's role to an empowering co-therapist.

Parts Therapy guides us through the process of identification, exploration, and integration of our parts, transforming our self-discovery narrative into a captivating story of joy, wonder, and awe.


The goal of Parts Therapy is not only to identify different parts and their roles, but also to facilitate integration and harmony among these parts.

An important question for a therapist to ask a part is: "How old are you?". This adds significant context to the client's story. IFS and Ego State introduced the concept of a part(s) being 'frozen in time'. For example, a part may identify as being six-years-old and still in a state of trauma, which occurred at that time. This part will be unaware of the client's current age and believes it still needs to be in a role that protects the client from the old trauma. Once the part understands the client has aged and does not need them to continue this protective role, the part happily relinquishes their negative role, and will move easily into what they see as a more enjoyable, positive role, integrating into the whole.

The role of parts

Parts Therapy creates clarity about the how and why of behaviours and emotions. The focus is to work directly with the afflicted part, e.g. if you hurt you hand you wouldn't bandage your foot. Talking directly to the affected part is at the core of Resource Therapy. IFS has a more indirect methodology, working with the 'Self' to dialogue with parts.

Parts Therapy is effective in many therapeutic presentations, which include:

  • Emotional healing: Parts Therapy allows individuals to explore and process emotions associated with different parts of themselves. By addressing unresolved emotions, individuals can experience emotional healing.
  • Behavioural change: Parts Therapy can be effective in addressing specific behaviours or habits that individuals want to change. By understanding the underlying parts contributing to these behaviours, individuals can work towards positive behavioural change.
  • Conflict resolution: Internal conflicts among different parts often leads to inner turmoil and self-sabotaging behaviours. Parts Therapy resolves these conflicts, fostering inner peace and promoting healthier, less conflicted decision-making.
  • Trauma resolution: Parts Therapy is a useful tool for identifying, processing and integrating traumatic memories. It allows individuals to work through the impact of trauma on different aspects of their personality.
  • Improved relationships: By understanding and integrating different parts, individuals may experience improvements in their internal and external relationships. This can result in better communication, empathy, and connection with others.

Self-acceptance, compassion, self-love

In the early iterations of Parts Therapy, the concept of 'bad parts' was used to describe aspects of an individual's internal experience that were associated with negative thoughts, emotions and behaviours, or self-perceptions that resulted in distress, self-sabotage or harmful behaviours.

Parts are now seen as protective mechanisms that developed in response to challenging life experiences, usually in childhood. Recently, there has been a shift toward more compassionate and non-judgmental language in therapy.

IFS and Resource Therapy aim to foster a sense of curiosity, empathy, and acceptance toward all parts of the individual's internal experience, recognising that each part has its own history and purpose. For instance, Resource Therapy accepts it is useful to have a child state that enjoys playing. IFS and Ego State Therapies will encourage the child part to 'grow up'.

IFS often uses terms like 'exiles' or 'wounded parts' to convey a more empathetic understanding of the aspects of the self that carry pain, trauma, or difficult emotions.

In Resource Therapy, the 'conditions' such as fear, rejection, guilt and shame or coping mechanisms, e.g. obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and addictions are diagnosed as Vaded states of the part that change from an unhealthy state to a state of health using their resources, talents and abilities.

Image by Tengyart
Photo by Tengyart from Unsplash.

Identifying and communicating with parts

Once your client's presenting issue is identified, the first step is to relax your client, possibly by achieving a light hypnotic trance state.

A simple structure for Parts Therapy is to:

  • Ask the part to come forward.
  • State their name or what they call themselves and their age.
  • Thank them being here and for talking to you.
  • Identify their role and the benefit they feel they add to the client.

The therapist then moves from identifying to clarifying to the part the need for change:

  • Advise the part that the client no longer needs this behaviour/emotion/conflict. Ask if they are willing to stop this role by stepping into a new beneficial role or opting to have a rest first, then stepping into a new role.
  • Confirm that they and the whole self are happy to continue to do this work to change the behaviour/emotion/conflict into a role that benefits the client now and in the future.
  • Thank the part and all parts for their past and continued work to help the client reach their current and future goals.
  • Ask if there are any parts that are resistant to this change. Bring that part(s) forward and clear resistance.
  • Obtain agreement from all parts that they are willing to work together to achieve the client's desired goals.

IFS has a hierarchy of parts, namely, Manager, Firefighters and Exiles, that you need to negotiate with. For example, you need a Manager's permission to talk directly to an Exile, and this negotiation can add to the time in therapy.

A frustration for therapists is the parts, when asked, that may not come forward or resist the change process.

In contrast, Resource Therapy rapidly brings the part forward, avoiding resistance by asking the client: 'What are you ready to change today?' This question informs the therapy session direction for the therapists and their clients and opens access to the parts involved.

The second step is to take the client to an exact time and day when they experienced the presenting issue. Once the client is in that experience, the emotions and/or behaviours of the presenting issue are amplified using NLP techniques of sub-modalities (colour, shape, size, texture, etc.). The part is then asked to come forward, which it does easily.

Another interesting Resource Therapy foundation is that the presenting part is not the part that needs therapeutic assistance. The presenting part is seen to be in conflict or annoyed with the part that needs therapeutic assistance. Generally, therapists focus on the presenting part, whereas Resource Therapy moves quickly from the presenting part to the afflicted part. This practice allows the therapy to be targeted and fosters rapid results.


Parts Therapy is an extraordinarily powerful therapeutic tool. The possibilities of the parts are as vast and varied as the facets of each client's own evolving story. Working directly with parts enhances the client's well-being and healing through understanding, compassion, acceptance and transformation.

Whether you are engaging in a dialogue with your client's distinct parts or unlocking hidden resources, Parts Therapy invites you and your client on a journey of self-discovery and healing.

IFS and Resource Therapy both offer a unique lens through which to understand and embrace the complexities of our inner world. Both would be welcome additions to a therapist's toolkit and to any individual interested in their personal healing. Parts Therapy explains the unexplainable.

The next time you're ruminating at 3.00 a.m., thank your thinking part and give them permission to go. Ask your sleeping part to come forward and take charge of getting you back to sleep. Enjoy dialoguing with your parts.



Watkins, John G. Hypnotherapy of war neuroses: a clinical psychologist's casebook, 1949, Ronald Press.

Watkins, John G., "John G. "Jack" Watkins Interview, September 20, 2004" (2004). University of Montana History Oral History Collection. 26.

Helen McLucas (JP, MBA, Dip Counselling, Dip Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy, ASCH Board Member, Counselling Psychotherapist, Clinical Hypnotherapist | Community Leader | Mental Health & Disability Advocate), is passionate about unlocking the potential within individuals through the transformative power of a range of therapy tools, especially hypnotherapy. As a community leader and advocate, Helen actively engages in initiatives that promote community health and wellbeing and inclusivity. Helen's advocacy extends to championing the rights of individuals with disabilities and mental health issues ensuring their voices are heard and respected.

1 Comment
Karen Phillip
1 Feb 2024
Excellent article, beautifully described and filled with such valuable information.
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