An Explanation of Family Constellations

What is a family constellation?

A family constellation is a psychotherapeutic method introduced by Bert Hellinger, a German psychotherapist, in the eighties and nineties of the last century.

Family Constellations are also called Systemic Work, originating in Systems Thinking.

Family constellations are usually brought into action, whenever a client has persistent vital questions with strong family aspects.

How does a family constellation work?
Therapists and coaches who work systemically will constellate the family of origin of their clients. By doing that they try to recognize, acknowledge and possibly take away entanglements within family relationships (which are not always visible).

A family constellation session starts with a client, who brings in an issue that requires clarification. In a constellation, family members (e.g. parents, siblings), major events (e.g. birth, abortions), abstract themes (e.g. leadership, independence) play an important part. To play these, other people join the constellation setting. These people, who preferably are not related to the client, are picked by the client to act as representatives of family members, events or themes. The representatives are positioned in the room by the client, resulting in a visual layout, a tableau vivant.

After being positioned in the room, the representatives will become aware of information, emotions or attitudes of the client’s family system, but also about the people and themes the others represent.

By moving the representatives around and questioning them about their feelings and attitudes towards each other and the situation, underlying aspects and entanglements are brought to light. Sometimes dating back to earlier generations and subconsciously causing the current blockages in the client’s situation. Finding a new balance in the constellation and eventually getting the client into the constellation to enforce this, can result in peace in the family system. This process can be exceedingly healing to the client.

The effects of the constellation are sometimes already noticeable in the short-term.

Family constellations are something you must experience, because of its phenomenological character. A constellation is always different and one works with that which occurs.

Examples of issues brought into family constellations

  • I am stuck and cannot take a step forward in my life.
  • I feel anger, sadness, depressed, whenever I am in contact with my relatives.
  • I always feel trapped in a new job.
  • It’s forbidden to mourn someone in the family, who just died.
  • Someone in my family is rejected and it is a taboo to talk about this person.
  • My life is controlled by violence, incest, sexual and emotional abuse.

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