What are Family Constellations?

Just as the planets and the stars have their own place in the Universe and are held together by invisible forces, so are you within your own family. Unconscious, powerful forces rule the interactions of each family member.

“Family constellation” is the method, which – faster than any other psychological method before – has spread from Germany throughout the world in the last two decades. This approach is powerful in its healing effects and gives insights in solutions for many conflicts in families and couples – and for conflicts within yourself!

Family constellations provides us with deep understanding about the influence of your family ancestry on your problems and on your wellbeing.  These guided interactions allow you to heal personal issues, so that the love for yourself, for your family and for life as a whole will flow even more!

At the same time, you start to see others and their difficulties with new eyes. You understand more about how and why we act and interact as human beings.

It is a therapeutic approach designed to help reveal the hidden dynamics in a family or relationship in order to address any stressors affecting these relationships and heal them.

This alternative approach may help people seeking treatment view their concerns from a different perspective, and can serve as a treatment for issues proving difficult to treat with traditional therapy.

Development of Family Constellations

This alternative approach was developed by German psychotherapist Bert Hellinger in the mid-1990s. Family constellations therapy evolved out of his work as a family therapist and his belief in the energy, both positive and negative, found in familial bonds. Nearly 50 years of studying and treating families led to his observation of patterns of mental health concerns, illness, negative emotions, and potentially destructive behaviors within families, and he suggested individuals might unconsciously “adopt” these concerns as a way of helping other members to cope. Family constellations method is less restrictive than other methods of therapy and support its capacity to allow people to see different perspectives and alternate solutions.

Family Constellations Theory and Technique

A family constellations session typically takes place in a workshop made up of a group of individuals who are not related. Members of the group stand in for family members of the person or couple presenting a difficulty or concern. The person seeking resolution of an issue, who is referred to as the seeker, or the group facilitator, chooses these representatives and places them into position as members of the individual’s family, also choosing one person to take the place of the seeker in order to complete the family dynamic. The use of other individuals to represent the family is believed to illuminate the disharmony within the family, and the individuals standing in, as members of the family are believed to be able to feel and experience the emotions of the person whose role they have taken on. Hellinger, the developer of family constellations, calls this sense of connectedness, which is felt telepathically by members of the group, the morphogenetic field. 

Although the representatives speak very little, the sense of knowing believed to result from the process is apparent to all who participate. The seeker watches from the outside to gain new perspective on the situation.  Even when an issue is not fully resolved by the constellation process, the individual who presented the issue may still achieve insight into the issue for which they are seeking help. None of the members of the constellation knows the seeker or is aware of the underlying issues brought forth by the seeker, but they often report an awareness of specific emotions and feelings directly related to the individual’s situation. The facilitator may ask members to explain what they are feeling, specifically in their relation to other members of the family. This may shed light on certain emotions and relational aspects that can be clearly connected to the issue being addressed.

Resolution may not be immediately clear to the person who has presented the issue. The facilitator in the session repositions members, occasionally asking them to speak their feelings aloud. Members may be moved from place to place in the constellation until they find a position or are able to make a verbal statement expressing feelings of comfort with their place in the constellation.

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Issues Treated With Family Constellations

Family constellations work is considered most effective in addressing concerns that are systemic in nature. These concerns might include family of origin issues, parent-child relationship difficulties, and intimate relationship challenges. 

It may be used as a potential therapy method for people who:

  • Are seeking to address negative or harmful relationship patterns
  • Want to be in a romantic relationship
  • Are attempting to resolve family entanglements
  • Want to overcome inner turmoil
  • Have experienced significant trauma or loss 
  • Are in search of personal and professional success

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Is Family Constellations Effective?

Family constellations is gaining popularity as an alternative approach to therapy, particularly in Europe, America, Asia, and Australia, where it is seen by many as a powerful and cost-effective method of addressing relationship-based challenges. Its popularity may be in part due to the brief nature of the therapy and its unique method of resolving challenges in which others are involved without necessitating the presence of those other individuals. 

Proponents of the family constellations approach believe each member of a family, adult or child, longs to feel significant and find a place within the family construct and support the method as a helpful step in the process of achieving this sense of significance and belonging. People who participate in this technique often find themselves unearthing surprisingly emotional reactions regarding their relationships, familial or otherwise, regardless of their age. 

Many individuals report achieving significant insight and clarity through constellation work.

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