Family Constellation, or Hellinger Therapy ,Personality Integration Therapy, Hellinger’s Method, Systemic Constellations or Systemic Family Constellations. Different names for the same, effective method.
In modern times when families falling apart is as common as feeling uncertainty whether our basic needs are going to be met, many can benefit from this method that has been proven to be effective time and time again. It has been developed by German missionary and psychotherapist Bert Hellinger.
Family Constellation is based on the realization that each member of every family (that includes the long forgotten, disinherited relatives as well) is deeply connected by an energetic, (morphogenetic) field.
The field is, from the point of view of the individual, a structure that works by influencing the subconscious, a source of power, family history, the call of the ancestors.
The person coming for help is deeply affected by and is under the influence of his/her ancestors, his descendants as well as his past and present relationships. Whenever a person is about to take any action, this field remembers. It may try to recreate an event that happened before in the family or may try to use an old strategy again.
It is the cause of the repeating cycles of similar fate, generation after generation in each family that we see so very often.
Bert Hellinger have observed that if the field is affected by a benevolent outside influence for example by Family Constellation Therapy, the cycles can stop and the individual is able to start a new chapter in his life. The harmonization begins by embracing the past with love and respect, being open to a new kind of future and accepting the challenges in the present moment.
So what exactly happens during Family Constellation Therapy?
Well, it is usually a group event. There’s a random group of people that includes helpers, the therapist and of course the client himself. They only need to give a few generic pieces of information, they are specifically forbidden to tell long stories, detailed descriptions or tell the full story from their own point of view.
The basic questions are:
Who belongs to the family? Are there any stillborn, miscarried (that includes aborted) family members or ones that died way too young? Were either of the parents or grandparents married or engaged before or were they in a long, deep relationship? Where there any serious accidents or did any member of the family ever take another life? Were there any unusual circumstances regarding the client’s birth? These are all the informations the patient needs to give us.
This is the reason why the therapist refuses to have a consultation with the client beforehand and that’s why there are no lengthy questionnaires either.
The patient, upon being instructed by the therapist, can choose members of the group to represent members of his or her family. To be more precise, he can choose a representative for his mother, father, siblings, relationships, children and of course his own self. It really doesn’t matter who he chooses, preferably someone from the same gender as the person they are going to embody but it also works with the opposite gender if this is not possible. This is the first step of the process. Once he made his choices the patient sets up the characters in the field any way it feels right for him.
That’s all he has to do at the beginning, now it’s the helpers’ turn who can, unconsciously, sense a lot of the situation of the person they are representing.
That’s all he has to do at the beginning, now it’s the helpers’ turn who can, unconsciously, sense a lot of the situation of the person they are representing. They can show and feel their emotions and intentions. Often they leave their original positions and turn to a certain direction or change the way they gaze. Then, the therapist, who has bees trained to read these signs, starts to ask questions such as ‘How does the mother feel?’ And then suggests certain movements or phrases up until she finds a reassuring order. Only then she makes the patient change places with the person representing him up until that point and in most cases she makes him say a few simple but very powerful words, such as ‘Thank you’. Then they wait for a couple of minutes for the new order to integrate itself and that is the end of the session.
In what way can all this help us? No matter the circumstances of our current lives, we are meant to be in a community in our present and, as for the endless flow of time we continue the lives of our elders and we’re the ancestors of our descendants. We don’t have statues of our ancestors by the family fireplaces anymore but we no longer live in ancient times where this was common and appropriate. Family Constellation Therapy help as to make peace with family secrets, traumas and cyclically repeating patterns, to stop handing these down to the next generation but to be supported by a strong family behind us to help face the challenges of our present lives.