How does parts therapy work in hypnotherapy?

"I contain multitudes" is a phrase from Walt Whitman's poem, Song of Myself (1892), popularised by Bod Dylan who released a song with this name. Both artists elude to the multiplicity of the Self, the fact we can be many and one at the same time. 


I will take an educated guess that at some point in your life, you found yourself saying "part of me really wants to go, but part of me wants to stay".

'Parts therapy', also referred to as 'ego-state therapy' or 'inner parts therapy', is a powerful approach to therapy that works with the different parts of ourselves.

The idea of parts therapy is still new to most people I talk to, and the subject is not widely discussed in the open media despite being an evidence-based approach. This is not surprising, as it is a complex subject in philosophical terms, and it raises all sorts of questions – some of which I shall address here.

This method is highly effective in my own hypnotherapy practice. In CBT terms, it would be the equivalent of 'cognitive defusion', but a little different. It helps us detach from thoughts and emotions, enabling more psychological flexibility and resilience.

I hope you enjoy this reading and feel inspired to try!

What is parts therapy?

Parts therapy is a therapeutic approach used in hypnotherapy and psychotherapy. It is based on the idea that each person's personality is made up of various sub-personalities or 'parts'. The goal is to identify and work with these internal parts to promote healing, integration, and personal growth.

Key elements of parts therapy

  • Unique and separate personalities: Parts therapy views the mind as a system of sub-personalities with unique positive or negative traits.
  • Conflict resolution: Parts therapy helps resolve conflicts between sub-personalities, such as one part wanting to overcome a fear of public speaking while another is carrying a trauma related to public speaking.
  • Harmonisation: Parts therapy aims to help different parts of a person work together, which reduces confusion and inner conflict. This process promotes communication and understanding between parts, allowing each to share their unique stories and motives. It also reduces self-criticism and encourages self-discovery.
  • Healing and transformation: Working with these internal parts in the right environment and conditions can heal emotional wounds, overcome limiting beliefs, and facilitate personal growth. This therapy can be especially effective for anxiety, phobias, trauma, and low self-esteem.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnotherapy techniques like relaxation and guided imagery can help turn our attention inward and communicate with parts. This, in turn, provides an opportunity for a deeper exploration of underlying issues.
  • Collaborative process: Parts therapy is a collaborative process between the client and the therapist. The therapist helps clients access and understand their internal parts, guiding them towards resolution and integration.
  • Conscious awareness and acceptance: Parts work offers a way to gain awareness of internal processes, leading to acceptance and healing. Passive observation brings calm, clarity, and compassion to our inner troubles. It is a truly magical experience.

How does parts therapy work in hypnotherapy?

In hypnotherapy, parts therapy typically involves inducing a hypnotic state of relaxed focus, inviting positive emotions and sensations so the work can happen in a more calm and relaxed way. The therapist guides clients to shift attention to their inner world and connect with their inner parts from a place of calm compassion.

This dialogue can reveal the underlying causes of emotional struggles, helping the client understand and resolve internal conflicts. We can experience profound healing and personal transformation by creating a meaningful and conscious connection with parts.

So, if we are made of parts, is there something in us that is not a part?

This is a fascinating question. Psychological models that describe individuals as having sub-personalities or 'parts' differ in answers to this question. Some models believe these parts represent the various facets of a person's psyche and personality. Others, such as IFS (internal family systems), believe there is a Self that is the core, the essence of a being, and it is not a part. However, there is also a broader philosophical and metaphysical perspective when pondering whether something in us is not a part.

From a psychological standpoint

  • Unified self: Many psychological and therapeutic models, such as traditional psychoanalysis or humanistic psychology, emphasise the concept of a unified self. In these models, there may not be a distinct notion of 'parts' in the same way that parts therapy suggests. Instead, these models focus on integrating different aspects of a person's personality into a cohesive whole.
  • Continuum of consciousness: Some psychologists argue that while there are various dimensions to our personality and consciousness, these dimensions exist on a continuum rather than as separate parts.

From a philosophical or spiritual perspective

  • The soul or essence: Many spiritual and philosophical traditions posit the existence of a deeper, unifying essence or soul within each person. This essence is often considered to be beyond the realm of 'parts' and represents the core or true Self.
  • Consciousness and awareness: Some philosophical views propose that consciousness is the unifying factor transcending specific parts. In this view, consciousness is the fundamental aspect of our being that allows us to experience and integrate various facets of our personality. For those who prefer a non-spiritualistic approach, this approach can be extremely helpful.

In essence, whether there is something in us that is not a part depends on the framework and perspective you adopt. From a psychological standpoint, the idea of parts is a useful metaphor for understanding and working with different aspects of our psyche. However, from a more holistic or spiritual perspective, an underlying essence or consciousness transcends parts.

Ultimately, how one conceptualises the nature of the self can vary greatly based on individual beliefs, cultural backgrounds, and philosophical orientations. It's a topic that has been explored and debated for centuries and continues to be a subject of philosophical and psychological inquiry – which is why I personally choose to stay out of it! I focus on the work that helps parts and mostly leave this question aside.

I believe there is a Self as a unifying factor, a pure consciousness capable of healing, guiding, and advising parts - but I do not impose beliefs on clients.

There is no need for spirituality for this work to be effective. Simply giving these internal entities life is enough for significant improvement at a cognitive-behavioural-emotional level.

How my approach to parts therapy facilitates healing

In my approach to parts therapy, I recognise that each person has a core or unifying Self - whether as a source of pure consciousness or divine wisdom.

This unifying Self is the essence of who we are (our consciousness), beyond the various sub-personalities or parts. The role of a hypnotherapist in parts therapy is not to dictate or impose solutions but rather to guide clients in accessing and connecting with their inner Self (conscious awareness, wisdom).

This process involves several key elements:

  • Hypnosis: Hypnotherapy techniques induce a relaxed, calm state conducive to inner awareness.
  • Dialogue with inner parts: Inviting parts to speak from an inner voice, which feels slightly imagined but simultaneously true. 
  • Accessing the unifying Self: Through this process of inner dialogue, clients are guided to separate from parts and create a healthy distance to create a relationship with each part from a place of conscious awareness.
  • Empowerment and self-advice: As clients access their unifying Self, they become empowered to offer guidance and advice to their parts. This self-guidance can be a powerful tool for personal growth, self-improvement, and emotional healing.
  • Personal transformation: Over time, parts therapy can lead to profound personal transformation as clients become more present and aware, and parts can take a more advisory role rather than taking over in certain situations - we all have found ourselves saying or doing things we did not want to do: this is an example of parts taking over.

In summary, as a hypnotherapist using parts therapy, my role is not to impose solutions, but to facilitate a deep exploration of the client's inner landscape, helping them connect with their parts and access more conscious awareness. 

Further reading

  • "No Bad Parts" by Richard Schwartz (Audiobook): This audiobook by Richard Schwartz provides insights into the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model, which is a prominent approach to parts work therapy.
  • "Self-Therapy: A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating Wholeness and Healing Your Inner Child Using IFS" by Jay Earley (Book): This practical guide is rooted in the IFS model and provides exercises for self-therapy and inner parts work.
  • "Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors: Overcoming Internal Self-Alienation" by Janina Fisher (Book): Janina Fisher's book explores various approaches to working with fragmented aspects of self in trauma survivors, offering a broader perspective on parts therapy.
  • "Voice Dialogue" by Hal Stone and Sidra Stone (Book): This book introduces Voice Dialogue - a therapeutic approach that explores and works with different inner selves or "voices." It offers a unique perspective on inner parts work.
  • "The Gestalt Therapy Book" by Joel Latner (Book): While not specifically focused on parts therapy, this book explores Gestalt therapy, which can include work with subpersonalities and inner parts. It provides insights into a different therapeutic perspective.
  • "Journey of Souls: Case Studies of Life Between Lives" by Michael Newton (Book): For those interested in exploring past life regression and spiritual aspects of inner work, this book provides case studies and insights into the soul's journey.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, England, W1S 1HP
Written by Caroline Silvestre, BSc Psychology, MSc, GMBPsS, MHS, GQHP, Hypno-CBT Dip.
London, England, W1S 1HP

Caroline G. Silvestre (BSc, MSc, GMBPsS, GQHP, MHS) is a cognitive-behavioural hypnotherapist working in Central London. She is a member of the British Psychological Society, the GHR, and the National Hypnotherapy Society.

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