Richard Schwartz earned his Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy from Purdue University, after which he began a long association with the Institute for Juvenile Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and more recently at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, attaining the status of Associate Professor at both institutions. He is coauthor, with Michael Nichols, of Family Therapy: Concepts and Methods, the most widely used family therapy text in the United States.
Dr. Schwartz developed Internal Family Systems in response to clients descriptions of experiencing various parts—many extreme—within themselves. He noticed that when these parts felt safe and had their concerns addressed, they were less disruptive and would accede to the wise leadership of what Dr. Schwartz came to call the Self. In developing IFS, he recognized that, as in systemic family theory, parts take on characteristic roles that help define the inner world of the client. The coordinating Self, which embodies qualities of confidence, openness, and compassion, acts as a center around which the various parts constellate. Because IFS locates the source of healing within the client, the therapist is freed to focus on guiding the clients access to his or her true Self and supporting the client in harnessing its wisdom. This approach makes IFS a non-pathologizing, hopeful framework within which to practice psychotherapy. It provides an alternative understanding of psychic functioning and healing that allows for innovative techniques in relieving clients symptoms and suffering.