“It takes courage to grow up and
become who you really are.”
In this article, we conclude our Parts Identification and Integration (PII) series. Our hope in sharing with you these last several months is that you have a greater understanding of how our theoretical foundation comes to life in therapy. The foundation of PII is the idea that each of us is a whole composed of many Parts. Let’s review the tangible ways PII helps in therapy:
One gift of therapy is sharpening the skill of self-awareness. When you are aware of what’s happening within, you can respond appropriately and feel like you are in control. Gone are the days of being completely overwhelmed with feelings of having no understanding why.
Parts Identification and Integration gives you a clear framework for self-awareness. The first step in therapy is taking the time to identify the Parts of you and actually see them, maybe for the first time. This was the case for Mike in understanding the Part of him that was critical and demeaning.
Mike believed he was undeserving of love and his only worth was based on being successful. With a new sense of self-awareness, Mike could identify when he was feeling this way and have an inner knowing that this was his “Bully” Part acting out. Therapy helped Mike realize that at one time in his life Bully had a purpose to protect him from the harsh environment he grew up in. He experienced freedom just knowing that this Bully was not him, but a Part of him that he could heal.
Understanding Unhealthy Behaviors
After you identify your Parts, you can understand where a Part came from, what the purpose of it once was, and how it might be helping or hurting you in the present. If this Part is behind behaviors or thoughts that are causing you distress or to be unhealthy, you can work in therapy to understand why this Part acts out in this way. You can work together to see how this Part is likely working so hard to protect you.
Amy’s story was a beautiful example of how PII can help you understand unhealthy behaviors. Amy was only five years old when she started caretaking for her father who struggled with alcoholism. Amy’s two child parts, “Siren” and “Little Amy”, were in great internal conflict. Siren understood her father as unpredictable and even dangerous while Little Amy loved her father deeply and would do anything for the relationship. As an adult, the only way Amy knew how to manage the conflict, guilt, and shame her Parts were experiencing was by drinking alcohol herself.
For the first time in her life, Amy realized that she had done what she needed to do in order to survive.
Amy knew that drinking as a way to cope and was out of alignment with the person she wanted to be. In therapy, using the techniques of PII, Amy was finally able to put the battle between Little Amy and Siren to rest. By looking at herself through the lens of empathy and care, she came to a new understanding about her Parts and how each Part’s feelings were valid given all that she had experienced. For the first time in her life, she realized that she had done what she needed to do in order to survive. Making peace between her conflicting Parts could now allow Amy to thrive.
Reduce Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety
Remember Joe’s story? He grew up facing criticism from his parents for his creative ways and he developed a successful professional Part that allowed him to adapt to the demands of his parents, but ultimately left him unhappy. After identifying the Part that was cast aside, Joe worked in therapy to reconnect with his creative Part. He began drawing again and exploring other expressive arts in his spare time. He began to develop the inner resources to nurture his creative Part the way he needed as a child and this allowed him to integrate this self-state in a way that brought him joy.
PII reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression by going back to the moments where the symptoms started and learning about what you needed back then. WIth this framework, you have the support needed to look at old wounds. The therapist works with you to see how you can give the hurting Parts of you what they always needed and hoped for. Sometimes, this is as simple as being seen, accepted, and loved.
Feel Good By Just Being You
This process helps you make connections as to why you are uniquely you and support you in increasing positive outcomes. At its core, the integration process means that all the individual Parts become fluid, flowing together in an intricate dance to come forward or move aside as needed so that the individual may lead an authentic, fulfilling, and connected life.
Flow allowed Little J to explore her feelings and express her needs
when words failed.
Last time we learned about Jennifer who was trying to understand how she endured an emotionally abusive relationship that left her feeling depressed and racked with self-doubt. In therapy, Jennifer discovered a child Part, “Little J”, and two Parts who were really helpful in her healing, “Wise J” and “Flow.” As an adult, Jennifer could see how lovable Little J was with the help of Wise J and Flow. Wise J, in her intuitive manner, would stand up and speak loudly when Little J felt small and voiceless. Flow allowed Little J to explore her feelings and express her needs when words failed.
Everyone has several Parts to who they are. The problem is that if we do not have an awareness of helpful Parts and the not so helpful Parts, then we are unable to minimize the destructive Parts and grow the Parts we love about ourselves.
The Therapist Perspective on PII
We asked our therapy team to write about their experience using PII with their clients.
“It is truly amazing to watch individuals of all ages identify their Parts and, through the support of therapy, learn to integrate these Parts into their everyday experiences. It is powerful when a client shares how they noticed a Part show up outside of a session, or when they can recognize a new Part exists before I do, or when a parent and child can communicate with each other using their Parts.” -Jasmine Narayan, Psy.D.
“When my clients feel ashamed and embarrassed about an aspect of their character, we are able to alleviate these painful feelings by understanding how this Part of who they are was created to help them at a time when they had no other resources to find safety and support. This reduction of shame allows for increased confidence and awareness to develop the more positive and productive aspects of who they are.” -Allyson Cole, Psy.D.
“I love working with my clients to identify and understand the Parts of who they are. In this framework, all Parts are welcomed and we approach from a place of curiosity and wonder. Some of the most powerful moments in therapy are when a client learns why a Part of them has been destructive and is able to see the goodness underneath that Part’s pain.”
-Sarah Freeze, LMSW
“Utilizing Parts with my clients is a vital step in understanding their journey from childhood to the present. To identify and connect with their Parts allows the client to observe, externalize and create flexibility in the different aspects of their personality, allowing integration and growth to be processed intrapsychically. ” -Terence Coyle, LMSW
“I have found that using Parts work with clients allows them to access areas of their personality that they may not connect with regularly. Identifying Parts that they access occasionally and report liking a lot, helps me as the clinician to shift their reactions to experiences they are triggered by. By supporting the client in bringing in the Parts they want more contact with themselves, they are able to move toward the Parts of themselves they are most proud of. ” -Julia Werman Zwerin, LMSW
“Parts work enables me to help clients understand why they feel conflicted or at odds with themselves at times. Externalizing and making tangible, generally abstract concepts, helps me work with my clients in a clearer way. Even more exciting about these projections of self is that they allow us to create shifts internally by creating shifts in the metaphors we use to do the work. This might look like creating a safe place for a Part in the sandtray. ” -Thomas Neuschul, LCSW
This series was intended to help you understand and honor all the Parts of you are. Please let us know if there is further information or support we can offer to help in this process.