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Using Internal Family Systems to Promote Neural Integration in Eating Disorders

Saturday, March 25, 2017: 4:00 PM-5:00 PM
La Sirena I (Green Valley Ranch)

Background: Eating disorders thrive within the polarizations of chaos and rigidity without the flexibility of responses necessary for recovery. This presentation will provide a brief synopsis of both Internal Family Systems and Interpersonal Neurobiology as well as discuss specific IFS techniques that can promote the basic principles of IPNB.

Objectives: 1. Following this presentation, participants will be able to explain the basic fundamentals of Internal Family Systems and how they apply to Interpersonal Neurobiology 2. Following this presentation, Attendees will be able to identify ways that Internal Family Systems aids in the promotion of neural integration. 3. Following this presentation, attendees will be able to explain how integration can allow for recovery of clients with eating disorders.

This workshop will explore the ways in which Internal Family Systems can be utilized to increase the neural integration of eating disorder clients. Eating Disorder behaviors typically function to regulate emotions by disconnecting the individual from body sensations, memories and relationships that are otherwise viewed as intolerable. The intrinsic rigidity and chaotic behaviors of eating disorders (ie. restrictive and binging behaviors) are explained by Interpersonal Neurobiology as a function of a lack of integration in brain function of these clients. Internal Family Systems involves increasing intrapersonal attunement by separating out strong, and at times contradictory, emotional states and guiding clients to maintain mindful awareness of these emotional states in ways that are neither flooding or disconnected. IFS also includes embodied techniques that can aid clients with eating disorders to attend to the emotional, embodied states of memory that can aid in the process of moving toward implicit to explicit memory. These processes serve to engage the brain stem, limbic system and prefrontal cortex simultaneously in the safe and emotional tolerable setting of the therapist’s office. This increase in the individual’s ability to stay in the window of tolerance while being present with strong emotional states, body sensations and memories allows the client to engage the “witnessing mind” and increases the response flexibility to the strong emotional states that previously would elicit eating disorder behaviors. The workshop will include a basic outline of IFS and IPNB principles and explore the similarities and differences in each of the models, including the IFS theory of the “self” and the IPNB theory of “mindful awareness”. We will also discuss the similarities/differences between the definition of an IFS “part” and an IPNB “self state”. Finally, the workshop focus on the specific domains of integration most problematic in eating disordered clients and ways that IFS techniques can move toward integration in each of these domains.

The polarizations of rigidity and chaos within the eating disorder population have been well-established. Internal Family Systems, with its focus on polarizations, is an ideal vehicle in the promotion of neural integration. Clients get stuck in repetitive, maladaptive strategies aimed at disconnecting the client from extreme emotions that otherwise feel flooding. Rigid, dissociative neural networks limit the client’s flexibility in response that is required for the recovery process. Internal Family Systems aims to increase one’s ability to hold strong, polarized emotions and to individuate each emotional state to decrease the compartmentalization and “clinical dissociation”. IFS allows clients a safe avenue to explore strong emotions and previous injuries of dissociated neural states with mindful awareness and avoiding becoming flooded or disconnected, allowing for the brain to rewire itself in ways that can allow a more coordinated, integrated, and modulated behavioral response.
Primary Presenter:
Christine Schneider, PhD

Dr. Schneider has a MSW from Washington University and PhD in Medical Family Therapy from St. Louis University. Dr. Schneider is also adjunct faculty at St. Louis University, teaching in the Department of Social Work and the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology. She is a primary therapist at Castlewood, incorporating theories of attachment and interpersonal biology into her individual, family, and group work. Dr. Schneider speaks regionally, nationally and internationally on topics related to attachment and trauma. She is a member of American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

Jim Gerber, PhD

Dr. Gerber earned a Master’s degree in art therapy and counseling at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. He earned his Ph.D at Saint Louis University in counseling and family therapy. Dr. Gerber has worked extensively with adults and adolescents in a variety of clinical areas including sexual and marital dysfunction, family therapy, sexual abuse, trauma, and compulsivity. He has published and presented papers on sexual aggression, sexual abuse and trauma. Dr. Gerber has worked at Castlewood since 2000 as a primary therapist and now as the Clinical Director for all St. Louis based facilities.

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