The teenager's confession: regulating shame in internal family systems therapy

Am J Psychother. 2011;65(2):179-88. doi: 10.1176/appi.psychotherapy.2011.65.2.179.


This case study explores the clinical relevance of the differences among shame, guilt that is linked with shame, and pure guilt. Empirical literature on emotion suggests that shame is instrumental in a host of psychiatric symptoms while pure guilt is prosocial and adaptive. Regulating shame and being able to feel pure guilt may be especially important for trauma patients like the one described here, who have transgressors as well as victims. The protocol of internal family systems (IFS), a mode of therapy that utilizes psychic multiplicity and actively recruits internal compassion, is described as a treatment for regulating shame and facilitating adaptive guilt.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Emotions*
  • Family Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Guilt*
  • Humans
  • Self Concept*
  • Shame*
  • Treatment Outcome