What is Family Constellation Therapy?

By May 28, 2015

Today’s psychology focus is on Family Constellations. You will love this approach if you would like to:

  • explore how the deep unconscious of your family system across generations can create suffering in the present
  • resolve negative relationship patterns
  • explore the root cause of a physical illness
  • seek relief for an emotional symptom like anxiety or depression
  • wish to improve functioning within a professional team or company
    heal historical cultural oppression or trauma


Family Constellations is a therapeutic method that incorporates elements of family systems therapy, phenomenology, and indigenous perspectives on the role of ancestors as influencers of current time and space.

A Family Constellation is a highly organized intervention that consists of a facilitator and a number of group participants who will assume roles to represent various multi-generational family figures, energies, or significant events in the patient’s personal history.

In a single session, a Family Constellation attempts to reveal a previously unrecognized systemic dynamic that spans many generations in a given family and to resolve the destructive effects of that dynamic by encouraging the patient to release tensions, lighten emotional burdens, and resolve real world problems.

The method was developed by Bert Hellinger a German born psychotherapist, who lived as a Roman Catholic priest in South Africa and became fluent in the Zulu language, participated in their rituals, and gained an appreciation for their distinct worldview.

Hellinger added this indigenous sensibility to his western training in psychoanalysis and transactional analysis, and formed a body of work called family constellations, systemic constellations (such as the dynamics among people who work together), and the Movements of the Mind-Spirit. He wrote nearly 30 books in the very late stages of his career.

What happens in a Family Constellation session?

Typically an individual can experience Family Constellation Therapy by attending a workshop led by a trained facilitator. A workshop group member can volunteer or will be chosen to explore an urgent personal issue.

The subject is interviewed by the facilitator who collects some basic information about the personal issue, family members who are living or deceased, and any other information that appears energetically significant.

Group members represent the significant figures or concepts from the subject’s life. They are positioned around the room and stand in silence. They may move and reposition themselves based on intuition or guidance from the facilitator.

Emphasis is placed on perceptive intuition or the “knowing field” which means to tune in and articulate the feelings and sensations that mirror those of the real family member the individual group member is representing. All of this is assumed without any real knowledge and often a complete unawareness of “who” the person is representing.

A healing resolution for the issue generally is achieved after repositioning the representatives and adding key members to the system who have been forgotten or written out of the family history. After this repositioning, the subject of the constellation is asked to replace his/her representative in the constellation to directly experience the resolution.

Resources for further exploration

Bert Hellinger website

The Hellinger Institute in Canada

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