A key priority for the Foundation for Self Leadership is to examine—through rigorous, independent research—the efficacy of IFS as a psychotherapy protocol in clinical settings, and across various non-psychotherapy applications, as a mindful wellness practice. The intention is to continually grow the base of hard empirical evidence, enhancing the credibility and visibility of the model in various settings.
Thanks to philanthropic support from the IFS Institute, individual benefactors and the greater IFS community, the Foundation has been able to fund several significant research projects.
Effect of IFS Treatment on PTSD Symptoms for Patients with Multiple Childhood Trauma
The first study ever funded by the Foundation for Self Leadership (in 2014) was published in a peer-reviewed journal in 2021.
The research was led by Hilary Hodgdon, PhD, at the Trauma Center, Justice Research Institute, in Brookline, MA, USA. The study, which was an uncontrolled, feasibility pilot, sought to assess the efficacy of IFS on patient outcomes. It was conducted in an ethnically and socio-economically diverse, large metropolitan area in the Northeastern United States.
Multiple validated scales were administered. The results showed that IFS therapy had significantly positive effects on adults with PTSD and histories of exposure to multiple forms of childhood trauma. Notably, at the one-month follow-up assessment, 92% of participants no longer met criteria for PTSD.
“We are indeed most encouraged, at the Foundation, that our initial research funding has led to a publication in a peer-reviewed journal,” said Toufic Hakim, PhD, Executive Director of the Foundation. Learn more
Comprehensive RCT Studying the Efficacy of IFS as a Treatment for PTSD
The largest funded project to-date this randomized clinical trial is studying IFS (in contrast to a nature-based reduction program) as a treatment for PTSD as well as opioid use.
The study is being conducted at the Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance community mental health center, led by an IFS Level 2-trained addiction psychiatrist, Zev Schuman-Olivier, MD. Dr. Schuman-Olivier, is Director for the Center for Mindfulness and Compassion, Medical Director for Addictions at Cambridge Health Alliance and faculty member in Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry.
A pilot study began in 2021 to examine the effects of the IFS protocol in treating 12 individuals experiencing complex PTSD. Given the public-health crisis, the study had to be conducted online with weekly IFS group therapy and bi-weekly individual IFS sessions. An unexpected silver lining of the pandemic: this study is now going to yield results of the first-ever evaluated IFS online group.
With promising findings from the pilot, the RCT study is currently underway. The Foundation has received numerous, generous gifts to support the project, however an additional $120,000 in funding is needed to complete the study. Make a gift.
A study on the physiological effects of IFS on client and therapist in a clinical session
This pioneering study, co-led by the Trauma Center and the Computational Behavioral lab at Northeastern University, observed the client-therapist process during IFS sessions, measuring, through high-tech sensors various data points, including heart variability. Analysis to match physiological data with elements of the IFS sessions is still in progress.