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Intimacy from the Inside Out


Written by Toni Herbine-Blank, Donna M. Kerpelman, and Martha Sweezy

Reviewed by: Rachel Baum, New York University

Intimacy from the Inside Out (IFIO) by Toni Herbine-Blank, Donna M. Kerpelman, and Martha Sweezy is geared toward psychotherapists who are seeking an alternative method for practicing couples therapy. IFIO therapy stems from Internal Family Systems therapy (IFS), a model developed by Richard Schwartz in the 1980s as an approach to working with individuals and families, then later expanded to include couples. IFIO couple’s therapy involves a two-step process of planning for the predictable universal issues that couples face and responding skillfully to other unexpected factors. Couples entering IFIO therapy often hold the two goals of feeling safe within their relationship and reestablishing intimacy. In the initial session, the therapist meets with the couple to inquire about hopes and goals, assess their ability to accept differences in each other, and then offer a perspective on the possibilities of treatment.

Herbine-Blank is specific in her instructions and provides clear examples to make the process of IFIO effective for both the therapist and the patients. She includes transcripts of couple’s sessions to provide therapists with real-life examples of what they will be facing in session. She also includes “Therapist Tips” throughout the transcripts to provide concrete advice on how to approach certain topics. In addition to tips and transcripts, the author also includes specific questions for the clients to answer as well as useful exercises for the therapist to utilize. While the authors describe novel terms throughout the chapters, they include two appendices and a glossary at the end to provide further knowledge on certain phrases and examples. Providing these resources helps to eliminate confusion over ambiguous exercises or phrases that a therapist new to IFIO may not initially comprehend

In Intimacy from the Inside Out, Herbine-Blank and her co-authors provide specific tools for therapists who are interested in engaging in a supplementary method of couple’s therapy. The book specifically outlines the IFIO therapeutic process as well as provides specific tips, models, and questions so the therapist can transition into the practice seamlessly. Herbine-Blank is thorough in her explanations and examples, making this book a beneficial tool for therapists starting out with the IFIO approach to therapy.

Toni Herbine-Blank is a senior trainer for the Center of Self-Leadership and the sole developer of Intimacy from the Inside Out (IFIO). She runs trainings, retreats, and workshops on both methods nationally and internationally. She also has her own psychotherapy practice in Colorado.

Donna M. Kerpelman has been immersed in Internal Family Systems (IFS) for more than ten years as a student, teacher, and therapist. She has organized and facilitated several IFIO retreats for couples in addition to assisting with IFIO trainings for couple therapists. She also brings her knowledge of IFS and relationships to the legal world where she represents children with lead poisoning.

Martha Sweezy is a clinical supervisor at the Cambridge Health Alliance and a Lecturer in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She occasionally helps with IFS trainings as well as co-leads workshops on the topic of shame. She has her own therapy and consultation practice in Massachusetts.

Rachel Baum studies abnormal psychology with a minor in child and adolescent mental health studies at New York University. She has completed a psychiatric diagnostic evaluation for an adolescent at the NYU Child Study Center as well as developed a school-wide project to promote positive psychology on campus. In addition to working for SPT, she writes reviews for the International Journal of Psychotherapy.