Help clients understand and break the [wounds + unawareness] cycle!

Effective Inner-family Therapy ("Parts Work")
with Significantly-wounded Adults

Help Clients Harmonize their Subselves

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council


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The Web address of this article is

        Clicking links here will open a new window or an informational popup, so turn off your browser's popup blocker or accept popups from this nonprofit, ad-free site . If the windows distract you, read the article before following any links.

        This article is one of a series on effective professional counseling, coaching, and therapy with (a) low-nurturance (dysfunctional) families and with (b) typical survivors of childhood neglect and trauma. These articles for professionals are under construction.

        This series assumes you're familiar with:

        Before continuing, pause and reflect - why are you reading this article? What do you need?

+ + +

        To get the most from this article, first study...

  • This introduction for human-service professionals, these basic premises, and this overview of the clinical model proposed here;

  • This perspective on family systems;

  • This perspective on Erik Erikson's stages of human development, and these developmental needs of typical minor kids;

  • This scheme proposing traits of typical high-nurturance families;

  • online Lesson 1, about psychological wounds and recovery;

  • These common questions (FAQ) about personality subselves;

  • this introduction to a series of articles outlining effective inner-family therapy ("Parts work"),

  • this real example of how psychological wounds were affecting a typical committed stepfamily, and...

  • this research summary and unsolicited testimony, and scan this index of Lesson-1 resources.


        A core premise in this clinical model and*  nonprofit Web site is that normal personalities are dynamic systems of semi-independent, interactive subselves or "parts" that conform to the principles of family-systems therapy. To survive low-nurturance families, children automatically evolve three or four groups of subselves, including a talented resident personality leader - the true Self.

        Depending on many environmental and genetic factors, such kids are often directed by inner children ("Vulnerable subselves") and their Guardian subselves - a "false self." These reactive personality parts distrust or ignore (disable) the true Self, and cause the growing child's thoughts, emotions, and behaviors - specially in stressful situations.

        Typical adults ruled by a well-meaning, short-sighted false self ("Grown Wounded Children,  or GWCs") develop up to five related psychological "wounds" - excessive shame and guilts, excessive fears and/or reality distortions, significant trust imbalances, and possibly an inability to bond and exchange real love - Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). 

        Adults whose personality is guided by their Self (capital "S") or a "false self" display characteristic behaviors. This allows a knowledgeable person to assess for significant false-self wounding, and the need for personal wound recovery (Lesson 1 here). Adults and kids often ruled by false-selves usually promote and live in low-nurturance homes, which causes mosaics of interactive surface role and relationship problems.  



Intervention Options




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Created January 20, 2015