IFS & Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

November 27th, 2021


This pandemic has caused the worsening of mental health conditions for many people. Some people have their life burdened by OCD experiences that rotate around contamination, and this pandemic, together with the restrictions on living, have affected the livelihood of many people living with OCD.

The workshop starts with an introduction to OCD explaining how we can view OCD experiences through the IFS lenses. We will also touch on different types of OCD.

The second part of the workshop is entitled “Getting to know the protectors”. We will present the most common protectors we have found in our clinical work with OCD. These entrenched firefighter parts work hard to try and keep clients from being overwhelmed by distracting or preventing overwhelm from exiles. From “protectors that don’t want to disturb the waters” (and make the client not talk about OCD during sessions), to protectors that lead to compulsions (clients are aware of extreme behaviors, but cannot stop). We will also explain the idea of EP (emotional part) – ANP (apparently normal part) from Non-IFS studies.

In the third part we will introduce the ideas of exiles in the OCD system. We describe how the current set of obsessions and compulsion do not necessarily have much to do with the original trauma, but they want to hide it and keep it out of awareness. Exiles tend to be linked to early childhood repressed anger. Desires to “undo” thoughts; history of compulsions, and “magical thinking” are the early stages of OCD. Exiling in OCD systems is often extreme, and, perhaps, a better way to describe it is to say that exiles have been dissociated.

In the fourth, and final part, we bring case studies, common clinical difficulties when working with OCD, etc.

OBJECTIVES: Participants will learn to (or be able to)…

• describe OCD experiences through IFS language.
• recognize common protectors found when dealing with OCD and how to respect these protectors.
• consider the existence of dissociated exiles as part of the OCD presentation.
• understand why these exiles are often dissociated.
• be familiar with various types of OCD.

Working with OCD requires a great deal of patience and it will be illustrated how working with therapist’s parts that get triggered is extremely important for successful IFS Therapy.

The workshop lasts 4 hours and combines elements of teaching, practice (in pairs or triads), and presentation of case studies.



Robert Fox is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who practices in Woburn, Massachusetts. He is IFS Level 3 trained and certified and an EMDR certified therapist. He is also trained in AEDP. He presented at the 2018 IFS conference on the topic of treating OCD with IFS Therapy. Rob and his colleague Alessio Rizzo have a proposal submitted on the same topic for the 2021 IFS conference. Rob recorded a podcast in February 2021 on this subject:

Rob and his wife live with their dog Gizmo, which is an essential element of Rob’s psychotherapy practice.


Alessio Rizzo is a psychotherapist, a teacher, and a writer trained in IFS (Level 3) and Gestalt Psychotherapy, who has recently been appointed as a psychotherapy trainer at a leading training institute in London.

From the very beginning of his career, Alessio has worked with clients presenting OCD symptoms. Noticing the lack of publications and information on OCD from an IFS perspective, Alessio wrote some articles based on his findings (https://www.therapywithalessio.com/ocd-articles) and reached out to Robert Fox after listening to his podcast, and, together, they have combined their knowledge and expertise.

Originally from Italy, Alessio lives in London and is working on bringing IFS to Italy.