What Is Family Constellation?

Family Constellation is a therapeutic method that complements psychotherapy, traditional counselling and coaching sessions. It is designed to help the person reveal the hidden dynamics in their family, or relationships, to address the stressors that create impact on these relationships and, ultimately, come to terms with them and achieve healing.

This type of therapy may help people seeking treatment view their concerns from a different perspective. Family constellations approach may be offered as a treatment for issues that are difficult to treat using conventional therapy.

This approach was developed by psychotherapist Bert Hellinger in Germany in the mid-1990s. Proponents of family constellations also believe that the method is less restrictive than other therapeutic methods and support its capacity in allowing people to view different perspectives and alternate solutions.

What is Family Constellation?

How Does Family Constellation Work?

Family constellation is a day-long workshop run by a trained facilitator. The client targets an area in their present life that needs resolution, clarity or healing. It does not necessarily have to relate to family history, nor related to the family of origin.

Other workshop members would represent the family members of the client with whom the latter has an issue. Throughout the workshop, the facilitator asks the members to explain what they are feeling to shed light on certain emotions and relational aspects that can be connected to the issue being addressed. This allows the other participants to listen and gain a new perspective on the situation.

The facilitator repositions the workshop members, asking them occasionally to speak their minds. Resolution may not be immediately clear to the client. The members of the group may be moved from place to place in the constellation until they find their position or are able to verbally express their feeling of comfort in the constellation.

What Are the Benefits of Family Constellation?

Family constellations are used for a wide range of situations and emotional issues that need to be addressed or resolved. The following is a list of some personal and relationship issues that can be addressed through this form of therapy:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Addictions
  • Bad habits
  • Failure at work
  • Negative relationship patterns
  • Parenting 
  • Family dysfunction
  • Divorce
  • Children of divorce
  • Adoption
  • Abuse
  • Trauma
  • Grief
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Physical illnesses
  • Financial problems
  • Phobias
  • Excessive guilt
  • Common or chronic health issues
  • Clearing or removing emotional or energetic blockages

What Can You Expect From Family Constellation?

Unlike traditional talk therapies, a family constellation workshop doesn't focus on discussing past events. The facilitator and workshop participants take information from the energy field that surrounds the client to help them unlock and address disharmonies within their life. Using surrogates can help the individual address and resolve past or current issues to move forward in life. Also, this therapeutic approach is known to cause a ripple effect, from people in the extended family to the circle of friendship.

A family constellation workshop consists of people the client doesn't know. At the beginning of it all, the client presents an issue, and then the facilitator asks other workshop participants to stand in for family members whom the client has an issue with. Each participant will tap into the energy field of the client to understand the relationship that the latter has with the family member whom they are representing. 

The workshop participants may feel sadness, fear, anger and a whole range of other emotions which may come up as they tune in to the energy of the relationship. Without the client sharing anything, the story behind each relationship suddenly unfolds through the participants. This is enlightening for the client as it allows them to see their family through a different lens, and understand their role in the whole situation. Taking the necessary steps to improve their relationship with their family eventually leads to healing.

For an online family constellation therapy, figurines are used to represent family members and relationships. The therapy session usually runs for two hours or more. After which, the client may see a shift in their behaviour or thinking. Whatever it is, it pays to embrace these changes in order to get their family to a healthy structure.

Is Family Constellation Safe?

Family constellation is a safe, therapeutic approach to gaining insight into one's family dynamics. Rather than digging up old wounds, this form of therapy guides the client in understanding their role within their family and its intergenerational relationships as well as conflicts. It opens their mind and allows them to figure out ways to address their family issues without subjecting them to emotional pain or trauma.