Family Constellations are a powerful solution-focused therapeutic approach developed by the German psychotherapist, Bert Hellinger. While the first name related to systemic family therapy was Virginia Satir’s with the Family Sculpture and Family Reconstruction, the Constellation work as it is used today was a result of Hellinger’s development of the method.
Although the name may make you think of it, Family Constellations have nothing to do with astrology, and are rather related to our inner map, as we perceive it, of the dynamics in our families. If we were to draw these dynamics, they would look like a constellation. You may come across constellations also named Systemic Constellations because in reality, with everything we are part of, we create a system; not only is the family a system but this work can be done with any kind of system, be it organisational, personal, political or religious etc.
While traditional therapies focus largely on the client, Constellations work with the whole picture of the individual as part of a larger system, the family.
Many times the dynamics which are present within our family end up getting unconsciously projected on other areas of our lives.
Working in a safe and nurturing environment, Constellations reveal how hidden loyalties and identifications can lead to repeating patterns of difficulties that can affect family members over generations. When these loyalties and identifications are brought into conscious awareness, we are able to relax and become capable of changing previously intractable patterns of behaviour.
The main goal of family constellations is to help us become aware of the family mechanisms that dwell within us. We are the result of a long family chain and we carry within us all the family members and important figures of our childhood. Often, configuring multiple generations in a family is thought to reveal that unhealed traumas continue to unconsciously be passed on to the following generations.
What happens in a Family Constellation?
While this method can be done in one to one sessions, it is generally used in a workshop format and is led by a certified facilitator. The participants in a constellations will be either ‘an issue holder’ or 'representatives’.
The issue holder is the one presenting a personal issue that they would like to work on, while the representatives are the participants in the constellation.
This personal issue can be of any kind:
Failure at work
Negative relationship patterns
Repeatedly attraction of toxic relationships
The facilitator will carry out a small interview with the issue holder. The interview will be based on facts only regarding their family history (for example, if both parents are still alive, still together or divorced, if anybody went to war in the family, if there were any miscarriages or abortions). Once the interview has been concluded, the constellations is set up. Unlike in psychodrama, the representatives do not act, pose, dialogue or role-play. The representatives have little or no factual knowledge about those they represent. They are meant to use their perceptive intuition, sense how they feel and report back when asked by the facilitator. The reports on how the representatives feel in the constellation will give the facilitator an indication of how to further guide the constellation. We will be amazed to see that the representatives mirror feelings, sensations and even gestures as well as words of the real family members they represent.
A healing resolution for the issue generally is achieved after repositioning the representatives and adding key members of the system who have been forgotten or written out of the family history as guided by the facilitator.
While constellations can be quite strong emotional work, the main force guiding me as a facilitator is LOVE and I especially pay attention to maintain it as the primary leading force in the workshop. The healing that takes place in a constellation can be referred to as a shift from blind love (our invisible loyalties) to love that sees.
If you would like to know more about Family Constellations or if you are interested in joining a workshop, please feel free to get in touch with me and I look forward to welcoming you to one of my family constellation workshops so you can set yourself free from your family entanglements and invisible loyalties and start living the truly free life you want and deserve.