Parts work & AIP model

We all have parts! Have you, or someone you know struggled to order from a menu and say something like "part of me wants to order salad because I'm trying to eat healthier, but it's been a long day so another part of me really wants poutine even though I know I'll be up all night with heartburn"? All parts want the best outcome for us, but sometimes they cannot agree, are not be fully aware of consequences, or they might not have been updated with present information due to trauma. Parts work is based on Structural Dissociation Theory and Ego State Therapy. Internal Family Systems (IFS) is a therapy that also works with parts. 


Imagine that throughout life, each experience is recorded in a document including how we think, feel, and sense the world around us. For example, if you have a great experience with a bunch of puppies, your document will read puppies and dogs are safe and awesome. Documents are then organized in folders, such as one called Animals. Daily life folders help us navigate activities such as play, sleep, house cleaning, attachment, socializing, reproduction, and taking care of others. Folders are categorized so the brain knows how to retrieve the right document for instructions, and respond the next time an even slightly similar situation happens. Next time you see a dog, you are likely to be open to petting it. These folders essentially form our worldview. As have more experiences, folders and documents are usually updated with new information. 


This does not happen with traumatic experiences, such a experiencing a dog attack. As a result of a perceived threat such as an injury to the body, social rejection, and attachment loss, the document created becomes locked. The system keeps repeating instructions related to past circumstances and instructions might not be appropriate for present circumstances. They hold information such as survival of the individual, and are involved with fight, flight, freeze, collapse, social submission, attachment cry, and recuperation. In this example, your system would see a puppy and scream all dogs are scary, run away! It is likely that at one time the related thought/feeling/body sensation and response served a purpose to protect the self, but when not updated, the behaviour can become socially, physically, or emotionally harmful.



Parts work can help the system work collaboratively, so the system can move towards positive mental health.