In this episode, we’ll explore this metamorphosis and how the abrupt shift into motherhood can shatter our former identity into many different parts (and why that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing).

Joining me is Rebecca Geshuri and Jessica Sorci, the brilliant creators behind The Mothercentric Approach, which blends Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy with maternal mental health.

Rebecca and Jessica will help listeners understand IFS and how “parts work” can be vital for mothers. By acknowledging and accepting these different parts, mothers can begin to heal and integrate them, forming a more cohesive and balanced sense of self. This integration can shift how we feel about ourselves and how we show up as parents, leading to a more compassionate and effective approach to motherhood.

Rebecca (00:00):

We need our parts. We’re not trying to get rid of parts. What we’re really trying to do is get curious about them and help them relax so they don’t have to work so hard all the time.

Dr. Sarah (00:17):

I am so excited to have my good friends and the creators of The Mothercentric Approach. Joining me on the podcast this week, Rebecca Geshuri and Jessica Sorci are both licensed marriage and family therapists, internal family systems therapists, and are also perinatal mental health certified. As co-founders of Family Tree Wellness in Silicon Valley, California. Rebecca and Jessica lead their one of a kind IFS-informed group therapy practice that provides counseling, education and support for people who are in the family building phase of life. They are changing the game and helping new moms and mental health practitioners alike treat the postpartum period with more compassion and understanding as they like to say. We believe mothering is the heart of our humanity and mothers need to be cared for as much as babies do.


Hi, I’m Dr. Sarah Bren, a clinical psychologist and mom of two. In this podcast, I’ve taken all of my clinical experience, current research on brain science and child psychology and the insights I’ve gained on my own parenting journey and distilled everything down into easy to understand and actionable parenting insights so you can tune out the noise and tune into your own authentic parenting voice with confidence and calm. This is Securely Attached.


Hello everyone. Welcome. Today we have two very special guests. We have Rebecca Geshuri, Jessica Sorci here to talk to us all about mom parts and what it is to be a mom and a therapist who treats moms. So welcome.

Jessica (02:02):

Thank you.

Rebecca (02:02):

Thanks for having me. Happy to see you.

Dr. Sarah (02:05):

I know, it’s so exciting. Happy to see you too. I know. Little backstory for our listeners. We are not just colleagues, but we’re very good friends, so I’m very, very happy that this is happening. This is an expression of a lot of hard work and friendship going into this episode.

Rebecca (02:25):


Jessica (02:26):

Yes. Same. Lots of paths colliding.

Rebecca (02:30):

It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Dr. Sarah (02:33):

I know It’s so amazing when you find people in this work who just get it in a way that words don’t always express, although that is kind of how we we’re working on finding the ways to express the words together because we are working on our own separate books, but we are working together in a writing group to write these books, which is how we’ve become such good friends and getting to know each other’s work in such an intimate way has been so wonderful and rewarding.

Jessica (03:07):

Such a bonus to the whole experience of working on our own books and our own material is learning about each other’s unique perspectives.

Dr. Sarah (03:19):

And I have to say my work has been deeply inspired and transformed by my getting to know your work. And I’ve always loved internal family systems. I’ve always loved working with the perinatal motherhood population, but the way two blend those two spaces is exactly what we’re going to talk about today and why I think it needs to be shared in whatever capacity we could possibly share it because I think it really matters, but it’s also really interesting. I really like what you guys have to say about this.

Jessica (03:59):

Thank you, Sarah. Thanks for helping propagate our work.

Dr. Sarah (04:03):


Rebecca (04:04):

Appreciate it.

Dr. Sarah (04:05):

So if people are super curious now we keep like we’re not going to bury the lead any longer. Okay. You guys is introduce a little bit of who you are, what the work you do is and the way that you are, how you are blending internal family systems. And don’t worry everyone, we’re going to explain a little bit about Internal Family Systems as well, but how you’re blending it with this, working with this particular population.

Rebecca (04:35):

Well, I was thinking about this this morning actually on my way in and thinking about the different ways that we want to support moms in general, right? Moms don’t, we kind of get the short end of the stick a lot. Our society is really challenging in our Western culture. It’s challenging to be a mom and our systems aren’t set up really well for us to connect with ourselves and our kids and really just do the work of motherhood. And so I was thinking about what is our role in that? And there are lots of people out there who are doing amazing advocacy work to help with those systems. Problems with childcare and just overall support. There’s lots of people who are working on medication strategies to help with that and to help alleviate some of the organic symptoms that are plaguing moms. What we’re really focused on is the emotional aspect of motherhood and we’re mental health experts and so we days, our days contemplating and working with moms, but also working on our own parts of ourselves that because both moms and so we come from it from not just a professional perspective but from a personal perspective, which really does inform the work that we’re putting out into the world.


So I feel like that’s the part that we’re really poised to contribute, that we are contributing, but that we want to propagate more of how moms can really connect with themselves, how they can feel really come to an understanding that they’re actually not broken whole, they were born that way. And there’s just lots of parts that start to cloud that belief. So I’m going to stop there and see what Jessica wants to add.

Jessica (06:54):

Well, I think, yeah, part of being whole is having a bunch of different parts and IFS, Internal Family Systems gives us a way of understanding the complexity of our inner worlds in terms of parts that hold different beliefs, agendas, hopes, fears, memories, somatic experiences. And so for all human beings, this is true, but Rebecca and I really focus on moms and giving moms permission to have lots of different parts without being crazy or disordered. Just introducing that concept as being completely normal and healthy. That in and of itself is kind of the opening for a big relaxation. That’s what we’ve discovered with our folks that we work with. Just letting people know at the outset, you’ve got a whole bunch of parts and you get to call them whatever you want, but we’re offering 34 different protector parts at the outset that we see in most mom systems.


And they have names like resentment, regret, anger, rage, panic, caretaker, nurturer, fixer. They’re pretty familiar experiences in every mom. And by giving them a name, making these cards that we make for our mom parts work, moms feel invited to identify those parts and start to explore them with a lot more openness and lots of less judgment. When you do that kind of work with several moms in the same room, super cool stuff happens because all of a sudden we’re speaking a new language that includes stigmatized or judged feelings and experiences that now are made really normal and really welcome. So that’s kind of like the first step with integrating IFS into mom work that helps moms feel normal and kind of take the disorder or the pathology out of their inner experience.

Dr. Sarah (09:18):

Yeah, I think that’s one of the most powerful things that, and having been, I’ve done a training that you guys have done, I know your work really well from the backend reading your book, your writing, but also as one of the things that you did in a training that I recently participated in was not just like, oh, let me teach you as another therapist how to work with moms and their parts, but how do you experience as a mother your own parts? And there was a little bit of a experiential work of actually examining some of my own thoughts and experiences as a mom, not as a therapist that works with moms, but as a mom. And I think this is, to your point, Rebecca point, this work is so complex because many practitioners who are working with moms are also ourselves mothers. It kind of draws to the work to some degree.

Jessica (10:21):

Or have a mother.

Dr. Sarah (10:23):

Or have a mother. We can all probably have some sort of narrative there. And so I think I felt that was incredibly moving and I got value out of that new framework personally of being able to say, okay, I’m having this thought. What part of me is actually embodying that thought and why and how is that part trying to protect me by holding that experience right at the front, right? That’s right. And in being compassionate towards that part of me instead of frustrated or irritated or embarrassed that it is existing or ashamed that I could lean into that part of me that’s doing something that maybe intellectually I don’t like with a lot of compassion and understanding. And in doing so allow that part to relax the need to protect me in that way because the threat maybe is perhaps not as real as it thinks it is.

Rebecca (11:37):

Right. There might be an immediate threat. But I think to your point, Sarah, because you also work with a lot of kids by doing this, going inside is what we call it and finding those parts of us as moms personally, that just opens up a lot more space to be curious about what your kid is going through. And like I said, this has been very personal work for both of us. And I think the moment that that really clicked for me, I’m going to just say my parenting changed drastically because I was able to really let my kids have their own experience and not let them be separate from me and be their own people. They are, but there’s always been a part of me that says, having kids is wearing your heart outside your body, which in a way it is. That’s what it feels like. And so that’s vulnerable, but the truth is that they are their own people and if we can approach our own experience with curiosity, we can also have more curiosity for them.

Jessica (13:04):

And I think that that thing you noticed, Sarah, in going inside yourself and doing the experiential that we introduced in our training is kind of the second piece of what mom parts offers to moms. That first piece is permission to have parts and name them. And the second piece is the recognition that our parts really are allies. And even if they have a name like Regret or Resentment or something that maybe feels loaded when you apply that kind of IFS take where you’re looking at these as protectors, they’re here to try to guard something that feels injured or vulnerable or not up to the moment, the task, when you know that they’re protectors, you get to kind of start to look at them in that paradoxical way. Yeah, they’re creating some mischief. They’re maybe setting up some situations that don’t go so smoothly, but they’re really trying to help and how are they trying to help me?


And getting curious about that tends to move us toward compassion. Even the curiosity alone though is enough to really start to change range patterns and ingrained reactivity that in this case we’re talking about moms, again, it’s all humans, but that moms have. So times when you would feel irritated with your child and the irritation starts to come up in, you may experience that irritation as unwanted and try to push it down. Good moms don’t get irritated with their kids, and so you’re silencing that in yourself and maybe getting mad at yourself or having that irritation. But the mom parts work really invites us to get curious about the irritation. Why is it here? What is it telling you? How is it trying to help you? How is it actually trying to stand up for you in some way or help you get back some of the stuff you are source so sorely missing in motherhood and how could you honor that and open up to it rather than just try to smash it down?

Dr. Sarah (15:20):

Yeah, I love it too because I think when we’re thinking about helping moms, working with perinatal and postpartum populations, when we’re thinking about postpartum depression and other PMADS, a lot of times we’re thinking about really new parents. And yes, in very New Parenthood there’s a ton of support that’s needed. There’s a lot of stuff that comes up. There’s a lot of grief and loss and very high stakes and physiological, just metamorphosis has happened in left and it’s a really vulnerable tender time. And so that population needs obviously a tremendous amount of support. And I think the work you do is incredibly useful for that period of time. However, what I really like about this is that it really doesn’t stop being applicable after someone is kind of out of that postpartum window. I found value in looking at my mother parts, the parts of me that show up in motherhood that might be getting in my way in their efforts to protect me, interrupting relationships with my child or my kids or my partner or myself.


And I am not in the postpartum period. My youngest just turned five. And so there is work to be done at any stage of motherhood. And I think there are parts that might be born in us or become sort of crystallized or birthed. I don’t know, maybe you could articulate it better. And I’m curious what you think about that in terms of if people are familiar with that. Maybe we could start just first of all a quick primer on what if FS is in a nutshell, but then my follow-up question would be if we’re thinking about parts in IFS as sort of breaking off because of a trauma or a scary experience that sometimes we can think of those parts as being part of maybe their own experiences of pathology or challenges or negative experiences.

Jessica (17:45):

Survival stuff.

Dr. Sarah (17:47):

Right. But they happen whether your mothering experience is positive or negative because becoming a mother is inherently a huge shattering of what was and a rebuilding of something different. And it’s not necessarily in and of itself a bad thing, but it does create parts. So that is three questions. Good luck remembering them all, but I’ll try to bring it back. But yeah, I love your thoughts on that.

Jessica (18:22):

Maybe starting with just what is internal family systems? I mean in a nutshell it’s a model of psychotherapy that’s become really popular I think because it’s kind of magical and it just resonates. The first time I heard about it, it was like, oh my gosh, I’ve been doing therapy for a million years, but this makes more sense than anything else I’ve ever heard. And it gives me so much instant hope and a sense of connection to resources that are inherent. So it really postulates that human beings have multiple parts that we’re all kind of multiple multiply minded, and that’s just how we’re born. It’s not a sign that you’ve had a horrible trauma and you’ve split. It’s just how we are that our parts all kind of organized to protect vulnerability. We have a couple of different kinds of protectors and then we’ve got sort of underlying wounds that the protectors are there to guard.


And once you understand how that’s organized, you just have a map for being with yourself differently. Or if you’re a therapist working with your clients differently, knowing that ultimately it would be great to help the wounds. Unburden and IFS gives us a way to help unburden those parts of ourselves that we call exiles that are holding pain. And you have to get the permission though to get to that wound from the protectors who are here to keep you out of the wound and keep you functional or keep you safe. So that’s kind of a concept of how IFS works. We’ve adapted that into mom work. In our mom parts method, we created a five step method that helps moms name their parts name or move into some basic truths that those parts have been trying to simultaneously hold. And at the same time, maybe they’re taboo these truths and they don’t want some other parts of us don’t want to acknowledge them, for example.

Rebecca (20:39):

Here, I have one right here. Sometimes I’m disappointed in my kid.

Jessica (20:43):

There you go.

Rebecca (20:44):

Right? That’s pretty taboo, but it’s so real.

Dr. Sarah (20:49):

A truly universally real experience and it could be threatening. I’m just trying to translate in real time to people who don’t know the IFS language. If I have the thought, for example, I’m disappointed in my kid and it could be something small, they told a lie and I’m disappointed in them, but it could be something also very deeply different. Maybe I had this wish that my kid would be this type of kid and I’m truly disappointed that that is not the kid I have. And so you could see the difference between saying like, oh, my kid told a lie, and that makes me feel disappointed. That maybe touches a small value or touches an important value, but it touches a value in a way that might not be particularly threatening. It could be depends how much you value truth telling and how much you expect a child to always be in alignment with that value. But if you have the thought, I’m really disappointed that my kid is not this kid.

Jessica (21:54):

That’s right, they have a diagnosis or they don’t like sports or whatever it is.

Dr. Sarah (21:59):

We could see how that could be pretty deeply threatening to my sense of self as a loving mother, a parent who accepts my child, which also might be true. And so if I have that dissonance there, I think in lies that wound part that you’re talking about, the shame that I might feel at knowing that that is a true thought I have or a belief I have or an experience I have, and now I have to protect. I need a part of me to kind of split off and come forward and protect me, Sarah, like capital S, Sarah, from having to experience the shame or the dissonance of experiencing that thought. And so that part might come forward and push my attention very much away from the thought I’m disappointed in my kid and the shame that I might feel at that feel of that experience and how that part expresses that could be a million different ways. It could be a part that does it by picking fights with my kid or deflecting or being the super mom, whatever. There’s a million different ways that we can, those parts can try to, but the goal of that part and whatever part it is that’s showing up, the goal of that part is to help keep that shame exiled that I have because of that thought.

Rebecca (23:26):

I think you said something really important, Sarah, and that was something to the effect of we need our parts. And so one thing I always feel like I want to make really crystal clear is that we’re not trying to get rid of parts by what we’re really trying to do is get curious about them and help them relax so they don’t have to work so hard all the time, but we need to be able to call on them from time to time. You need to probably have your caretaker front and center, especially if you’ve got little littles that really need you all the time. But we could say that about any part. So I think sometimes people get a little bit confused like, oh, I’m supposed to unburden this part, and then it’s just going to go away, and then no, maybe they just relax enough so that they can do something else, something that’s more enjoyable that they can come back to the essence of who they really are and which is kind of a beautiful, and quite frankly a spiritual experience that I think motherhood is and can be a very spiritual experience.


And we don’t really talk about that very much either because that can be kind of taboo in and of itself.

Jessica (24:56):

Well, that really invites, I think that other part of your question, Sarah, which is something that made me think about what we talk about the perinatal portal that when you become a mom, you have this sort of spiritual, psychological, physiological opening that is undeniable. You have to an opening like that to conceive a child, to birth a child, to resonate with a child, that perinatal portal that opens lets in a whole flood of old parts, stuff left over from our childhood, basically everything that we stored in our implicit knowing about what it is to be in relationship, what attachment is, how dependency is met by the world, is it safe to be in the world? Whatever we recorded in our own early life is really captured in parts of us that before having children, we often found a way to really protect around and not have washing through us all the time, or if it’s good information, if we were really well tended to as little ones and we felt generally safe, that’s different.


But when you have trauma in your past or unfinished business, having a baby is going to bring it back. And most moms would say it’s kind of that first year postpartum that’s most acutely alive with old parts. So that’s a time when we see a lot of moms who are in crisis and feel emotionally just so stirred up and transformed, and this is helpful work or a helpful application of IFS for that time. But then as we move out of our perinatal period of life and where you are five years out or where me and Rebecca are, which is teenagers to young adults, it’s still true that those parts are very alive. We really see ourselves in our kids and our own kids stuff gets projected onto them. We have fantasies about what parenthood will do and who our kids are supposed to be, and we just naturally look for fulfillment through parenting that is often not met.


It doesn’t go the way we want it to. Our kids, like Rebecca said, are their own people and we don’t get what we want. We get who they are, and that means we’re going to have lots of our own feelings about that. So mom parts gives us a way of naming the truth, moving into what we call the inescapable vulnerabilities of motherhood, grief and shame, and then being with that differently, having the courage and putting on our adult pants in a way so that we can greet shame and we can greet grief with a bigger, wider heart that our young parts don’t know we have. So we tend to really brace against that stuff, but we have a lot more capacity in adulthood that we don’t often tap without being prompted to.

Dr. Sarah (28:12):

Yes. You just said something that I think is one of my personal most important takeaways I’ve gotten from working with IFS and parts work is that, can you explain a little bit about this idea that some parts are very young and they don’t know they’re not up to speed on the current day and time and our capacities as an adult and how that even is possible? I think if people aren’t super familiar with this, that’s a little…

Jessica (28:43):

Woo woo

Dr. Sarah (28:44):

Complicated. Yeah. Well, woo woo, but even I think what you explain, it doesn’t sound very woo woo, but it’s, it’s a totally different way of thinking about our conscious experience because we forget that what I think if FS is explaining is our conscious experience is not all front and center today’s date. There are parts that are fragmented off in our timeline of development and they kind of stay stuck in those periods of time, and we actually have to bring them into our more current conscious awareness, which is actually part of the work. So could you explain that a bit for people who aren’t familiar with this?

Jessica (29:31):

Do you want to?

Rebecca (29:32):

Yeah, I think you kind of did that actually, Sarah, but I was thinking, can I find an example to just kind of illustrate this? And if you think about maybe a three-year-old who is playing on the playground and gets bitten by a dog or something, and then 30 years later they still have a fear of dogs, it’s like, and maybe there’s not a real reason for that other than that initial dog bite, right? They’ve had dogs in their lives and they’ve been docile and whatever. I mean, maybe this isn’t a great example, but it is an example. I heard my inner critic just say, maybe you should have chosen something else. 

Jessica (30:21):

I love it.

Rebecca (30:22):

I’m going to go with it. Okay, so that part that got really scared because it’s a real trauma for that three-year-old little one got stuck there. And so now there’s this memory that is living in their body about what it means to encounter that.

Jessica (30:45):

Well, they’re also, I’m thinking how small they are, right? They’re three and here’s this dog that’s physically bigger than them. So their experience of being bitten is one of powerlessness too. I cannot do anything. I don’t have the words. I don’t have the size, I don’t have the literal power to help myself in this situation. When you’re powerless and you are as a child, we forget this, we move out of childhood and we just totally get amnesic about how powerless it is to be small, but that powerlessness forces us to use our parts that we have to protect ourselves in some way. So yes, I am having the teeth of the dog bite into my arm right now, and there’s nothing I can do about that. But what I can do is, and that particular system will find whatever it can do, it might be rage, it might be going numb and blocking it out dissociating.


It might be moving into connection with whoever comes to the rescue and using that other person’s nervous system, but they’ll adapt in whatever way they have access to. And then like Rebecca saying, that experience gets kind of consolidated around whatever parts had to come forward that help the person survive. They now become stamped in as the parts we use in a situation like that. And here you are, 37 and five eight and encountering a poodle that starts snarling at you in the park. You have tons more resources. You’ve got a leg that can kick a poodle. You’ve got a voice that can say, get your freaking dog off me. You’ve got legs that can run fast. You could do all kinds of things that you couldn’t do when you were three, but that same part is going to be here, that experiences itself as powerless in the face of a dog and has the somatic experience and the fears and the story that stuck in three years old.


That happens in so many ways around powerlessness or even around, well, let’s go with powerlessness. I think it’s kind of one of the biggest determining factors that our parts adapt around. And so you find yourself as an adult having these really kind of reflexive beliefs and reactions like the dog bite one. And if you pause and turn inward, oftentimes what you discover is, oh my gosh, I’m assuming powerlessness, and I’m also assuming blame kids assume blame too, right? They kind of take on this experience of, Hey, I could have controlled that if I’d been a better kid or somehow it’s my fault. Those things just travel with us and they can really be updated and helped by just that conscious application that IFS invites us to do around noticing what the story is that your part is telling and starting to unblend from it so that you can see is that really true? Now, do I have more that I can bring to this and help myself differently Now?

Rebecca (34:01):

I think that is really, really, like you said, Sarah, the thing, it’s really updating the parts because especially if we’re not going to be able to truly unburden every single part, because the truth is there are some circumstances where we are still powerless and that convolutes the situation. Maybe we’re not powerless against a dog bite anymore, but maybe our life circumstances prevent us from having some power based on lack of privilege and whatnot. So I think that however, is so rich. It’s an opportunity to really find out where do you have power? Where can we update our parts and how can we be with the grief that inevitably ble surfaces when we realize, oh, there is stuff that we can’t control. And I think that really comes up a lot in motherhood in particular, especially around birthing stories and just like you’re working on teenagers with kids that they don’t conform the way we want them to conform and just…

Dr. Sarah (35:36):

No, it’s true. I mean, I think I look at the work that I do with families, and a lot of times I’ll be doing parenting support around, I do work with women who are new parents experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety, but far more often I’m working with parents of 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 year olds and then working with the parents in the context of supporting their child. But often, almost every single time there is some conversations about the parents’ experience of the child and a lot of their own fears, beliefs, ways that they might be protecting themselves from experiences of grief or shame around their relationship to their kid, their thoughts about their kid, their fears about how good of a parent they are, and the work to just be able to say what the part of you that’s feeling that, how is that in some way keeping you safe?

Jessica (36:59):

Where does it come from in your history that it adapted that way to keep you safe? Yeah, you’re right that mom or parent is making some assumptions about their kid based on their own childhood experience, presumably, or their own adaptive parts.

Dr. Sarah (37:17):

And oftentimes it’s like, well, if I were to behave that way with my parent, it would not have been safe. I wouldn’t have been able to lose my mind like that at my parent. I would’ve been completely punished, or they would’ve withheld their love or their affection. I would’ve felt completely by myself if I had done that. And so maybe there is, yeah, existential threat. A lot of these parts are dealing with what feels at the time, like existential threat. That’s right. Three-year-old looking at a dog that’s bigger than it with its teeth beared, that’s existential. The idea of a child knowing on some level that if I were to scream at my parent, I would be truly exiled. That’s existential. And if we then have that part of us parenting our child, how old is that part? Probably pretty young. Do we really think that that part is capable of holding all the stuff and staying regulated in the face of our child’s total temper tantrum?


Not really. We don’t let four year olds parent for a very good reason. Can you imagine? So we have to, there’s a lot of work I do with helping parents kind of reintegrate those parts, help them reestablish a sense of safety and let the adult fully integrated self of that parent actually take the reins and do the parenting. And that’s pretty powerful for a lot of families. It can shift the trajectory of the way that you show up as a parent from that point on. Doesn’t mean it will always be easy though, but it’s a different mindset with which we go into parenting.

Jessica (39:12):

That’s right. You got it. And our parts, sometimes we need manager parts to take the reins and they just will also, our parts will just do what they have to do in any given moment. If our kids threatened or if our system senses threat on any level, we can count on it that our protectors are going to come forward and do whatever they determine is necessary. But our ability, even after the fact to debrief with ourselves and start to realize what did that part of me think was happening and what was it afraid would happen if it didn’t jump in and yell or jump in and shut me down or make me go silent or whatever, action behavior it initiated and starting to understand what those protectors believe. And again, it’s usually based on our early conditioning and what our childhood was like, just brings in so much more consciousness and awareness.


And even if you don’t do anything specific to change it, your system will start to behave differently. It’s making me think of a mom part salon we ran the other day, we’ve got this cohort who’s coming in person and monthly, and a mom came and she was reflecting on the cards she laid out in the salon and she said, oh, I’m seeing how it’s still the same story, the same triggers with her child. She’s got some angry parts. And she’s like, I still see those same protectors here, but I’m noticing that I’m really relating to them differently, and I have been for the last several weeks. They’re held really differently in my system. And that was gratifying to us to hear.

Rebecca (41:02):

I felt like confetti should fall from the ceiling when she said that.

Dr. Sarah (41:07):

You should really set up some confetti we should with a button or something in your office. That would be pretty amazing.

Jessica (41:15):


Rebecca (41:16):

Really fun. And just validating. Wow. She really got it. And it’s not like in her, I mean, I don’t know what her day-to-day life was looking like, but the fact that she able to say, oh, I can feel a shift here that just feels so powerful. It should be celebrated.

Dr. Sarah (41:41):

Yeah. Well, like you were saying, a lot of these parts are coming online initially because of a sense of powerlessness and kind of in a paradoxical way perpetuate the sense of powerlessness all the time and to really say like, oh wow, you don’t have to do this anymore. I’m actually powerful enough now to really keep us all safe.

Jessica (42:04):

That’s right.

Dr. Sarah (42:06):

It’s really reorganizing the sense of powerlessness from a much more sort integrated in organic way instead of having these fragmented parts try to reclaim power in these very young immature ways because that’s the only resources that they have because they really are 3, 4, 7, 12, 18 years old, whatever. You brought up mom parts salons, and I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about what they are because they’re very, you guys do therapy, I do therapy. These are really different from therapy and I think they’re super interesting and a potential really nice resource for parents, for therapists working with moms because they could be this nice little supplemental dip into this space. Can you talk about what they are?

Rebecca (42:56):

Yeah. We gather together moms either online or in person in our office in California, and we walk them through our mom parts method. And so we help them, we go through a visualization that kind of helps them get in touch with their protectors and then helps them identify what those protectors are. And then we go through and pick out some truths. I showed you one of those cards, but we’ve got a bunch of different truths that we’ve come up with over the years that just really make a lot of sense that kind of validate what those protectors are feeling. And then that organically kind of opens up the, excuse me, Jessica, you’re going to have to take it.

Jessica (43:51):

That moves moms right into grief or shame. And we’ve just made it really reductionistic and offered moms a choice. You get to choose grief or shame and somehow seeing those two words so starkly placed in front of you, it’s just the case that our protectors are guarding against one or both of those things inside of us. And so moms name what that is. And at each turn we have them go back inside, meaning close their eyes and see what’s happening as they integrate that new information and then come back out. And the final is picking what we call remedies. And they are the eight Cs of self-energy from IFS eight words that start with C, compassion, connectedness, courage, creativity, curiosity. There’s a bunch of them, and apply that remedy to the protector and the system knows exactly either what it needs or what’s already flowing.


A lot of times moms just by having the courage and being held in a way that allows them to name the part and what its truth is, they just already are feeling more connected and more curious and more compassionate. And then that sounds like a lot, but we move through all of that usually in about 20 minutes, and then we take the next 40 to have the mom share among themselves. And we run a lot of groups in our years and these things in such a short time, moms are just telling truths and holding each other in such profound ways. We had one participant say, I got out of one of these mom parts salons one hour, what I couldn’t get in my many years of therapy. And that was really nice to hear that it’s serving the purpose that we designed it for, which is to be really direct and powerful and honest. And also not just excavating all the pain, but do we also arrive in a place that feels like moms leave with something that’s adaptive, that’s helped them feel better, have some insight, have some sort of, even though IFS isn’t about tools so to speak, is there access to something useful here that’s going to make life a little better going forward?

Rebecca (46:24):

I think one of the things that’s so, well, there’s two things that are really powerful about the mom part salons that I want to talk about. One is we’re teaching moms really how to slow down and listen inside. So every step we are asking them to go back inside and really scan their body and find the part again and see how the truths are affecting them. And that’s something slowing down is something that moms just don’t do generally because we don’t have time. But I always say to my clients, even 30 seconds of slowing down and focusing inside can shift something so powerfully.

Jessica (47:11):

It’s like getting feedback from inside rather than just all the feedback you get from outside, from your kids and the world around you.

Rebecca (47:18):

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And then also on that same note, just the community aspect of exploring this in having your parts be witnessed and validated and understood by other moms who are experiencing very similar parts. I mean, we named the parts on purpose even though fundamentally IFS kind of says let the person name their own part. We’ve gone out on a limb because we see them so often and it really is relaxing for moms to hear, oh, you have a caretaker part two, but I have a baby who’s three months old and you have a kid who’s 18 and we have similar parts, and that’s just been really gratifying and I think healing.

Dr. Sarah (48:18):

Which I think speaks to what we were talking about a little bit before of we can look at IFS as an application for these very specific sort of traumatic or very complicated negative experiences that we might’ve had to go through in our lives. And it’s very helpful for that. And I kind of agree that you can’t really name somebody else’s part if we’re talking about that realm, so individual, but the way that you guys apply this to motherhood and all the phases of it is we’re really not talking about something that is based off of trauma. Yes, there are things like you said, when you go through the perinatal portal, all of our past trauma kind can come forward and through and touch and kind of wake up a bit. And there can be obviously things about becoming a mother that perhaps were traumatic if you had a birth trauma or some other type of maybe you had a loss.


Those are their things that could be acutely traumatic. But then you look at every single person who has become a mother, and I would say this is probably also applicable to some degree in terms of anybody who’s become a parent, period. I know that we’re focusing specifically on mothers because that is really where this work, kind of the language, it’s complicated, but the birthing process, many people can identify as a mother, and I think this is applicable to every one of them, but this idea that this isn’t a traumatic necessarily, this isn’t trauma work, this is just metamorphosis work. You’re becoming a new part of your life that’s forcing you to go through this kind of universal experience to some degree. Obviously we all experience it in very unique ways, but it is universal in the sense that there’s a collective unconscious, there’s a collective experience of being a mother. It might translate individually, but there are probably, like you said, there’s 34 parts that you’ve identified that every single woman who comes through your mom’s salons is like, yep. Had that one, had that one, had that one. I know that one. And when we all sit there and say, this is our shared experience, something so profoundly connecting and grounding in that and be like, okay, we are a collective mother.

Jessica (50:40):

That’s right. There’s a real universality to it for sure. And I think that key feature is responsibility. And so anybody who has felt wholly responsible for another dependent human or even animal I think can relate to this, it sets you up to be kind of split to have those parts of you that are about maintaining the wellbeing of that other being. And then what about you? What about your wellbeing and your care and what you’re compromising or sacrificing to be in a position of caring for this other creature? So that’s moms, that’s dads. It’s probably grandparents. I think when we did the training at your place, Sarah, somebody in the audience said, well, I have a pet and I can feel all of this from my pet. So it’s really just being in a position of responsibility and caregiving. When you’re really committed to that, you are changed in a way that mom parts will apply to you.

Dr. Sarah (51:44):

Yeah, I think that’s so good.

Rebecca (51:46):

One other thing I should mention, to your point about the mom parts salons being a good adjunct to therapy because we’re helping people identify their parts. We also at the end of a salon, send them what we call a trailheads form. Trailhead is an if FS term, it’s what you can work on next, the opportunity that lies ahead of you. We send them a form that they can fill out, that they can remember what parts came up, what their truths were, whether it was shame or grief, what their remedies were. And then they can go back to that in the future. So they could go back to that with their therapist. They could go back to that on their own. They could go back to that with a friend. Whatever works for people. But the important thing is not to leave the parts behind. It’s not just kind of a one and done thing. We want to make sure that people understand that going back to their parts is going to really help continue to update them.

Dr. Sarah (52:52):

I love that. I think that there’s so much use for this. I see so many opportunities in my work with parents where a good mom’s mom part salon would do wonders. It’s like instead of going to a spa, which could also do wonders, maybe go do that, take a day, go do that for yourself, and then come back and let’s see where you want to, what feels fresh now to work on.

Jessica (53:19):

Get a massage too though.

Dr. Sarah (53:21):

Yeah, get a massage too.

Rebecca (53:21):

Do it all if you can really, right.

Dr. Sarah (53:25):

Okay. So if people are listening to this and they’re like, whether they’re a parent who’s like, oh, I really want to try that, or maybe I’m a therapist that’s like, this would be really nice for someone I’m working with. How can people learn more about mom parts salons? How can they learn more about the trainings and the work that you guys do? Everything? Tell us all of it.

Jessica (53:45):

Yeah. We have a website, mothercentric.com, and you can find stuff for practitioners there. If you want to do trainings with us. We offer an annual training called The Mother Centric Approach. That’s a two day really comprehensive incorporation of everything we know about matrescence, the phase of life of developmental phase of becoming a mother, and how that gets a little warped and tweaked in our culture, our patriarchal culture, and how that starts to look like disorder in mothers and mental illness in mothers. And then the second day is a real focus on mom parts and the application of IFS into motherhood. So mothercentric.com will tell you how to find more about that. And then there’s also a link for moms if you want to just learn more about mom parts and join a salon and that sort of thing. We also offer a certification now that we’re just birthing. Just birthing. That’s a good word for it.

Dr. Sarah (54:50):

I love it. Well, we’ll link to your website in the show notes, a show description, and yeah, if people have any questions, they can reach out to you. And I’m very excited to see you.

Jessica (55:05):

I’m glad we’re friends.

Dr. Sarah (55:06):

I’m so glad we’re friends. Deep friendship.

Rebecca (55:09):

Thank you, Sarah.

Dr. Sarah (55:10):

Thank you guys. This was wonderful, and I will talk to you soon.

Jessica (55:17):

Yes you will. Thanks for having us.

Dr. Sarah (55:19):Thank you so much. If you enjoyed listening to this conversation, I want to hear from you, share your thoughts and your feedback with me by scrolling down to the ratings and review section on your Apple Podcasts app or whatever app you’re listening on. And let me know what you think of this episode or the show in general. Your support means the absolute world to me, and just a simple tap of five stars can make a real impact in how this show gets reached by parents everywhere. So thank you so much for listening and don’t be a stranger.

208. Using Internal Family Systems to emotionally support mothers with the creators of The Mothercentric Approach