Family Constellation by Dr. Alison Kerns

Family Constellation is a trans-generational therapeutic intervention based in family systems therapy, existential-phenomenology, and the ancestral traditions of the South African Zulus. It is a group process that has the power to shift generations of suffering, disease, and unhappiness. The founder of this work is Bert Hellinger, a German psychotherapist, former priest and missionary, psychoanalyst, body therapist, group dynamic therapist, and family therapist who studied and treated families for more than 50 years.

In his systemic therapy work Bert Hellinger discovered that the family system, just like any other system, has its own natural order and when that order is disrupted, the effects are felt by subsequent generations as the system tries to right itself. There are certain natural laws that are in place to maintain that order and permit the free flow of love between family members. In the family system each member of the family should take their appropriate and actual place, take upon their role in life, take care of themselves, and avoid intervening in other’s destiny. There are fundamental needs that exist in all of the relationships in a system- the need to belong (bonding), the need to maintain a balance of giving and taking (equilibrium), and the need for the safety of social convention and predictability (order). When there is a disruption to the natural order of the system, the destiny of one person in the family is entangled detrimentally into another family member’s life; the effects of these entanglements can be felt by subsequent generations. These effects are manifested by such things as: suicide, depression, childlessness, mental or physical illness, and addictions often without any conscious awareness of what has occurred in previous generations.

Family Constellation is an approach for revealing the hidden dynamics in a family. The actual therapeutic process happens with a facilitator in a group setting with the individuals in the group representing the different family members. People are strategically positioned into family roles, including a person in place of the client, in order to bring the family dynamic into play. The facilitator instructs the representatives to engage in a form of cohesive and independent communication to act on the emotions of each person involved that serves to represent the true nature of the family. The dysfunctional aspects of the family are thus drawn out and the family dynamic is accurately depicted. Often, this is the first time the family members recognize these family patterns and it can be extremely powerful for all members of the family and group.

Family Constellations allow us to break trans-generational patterns so that we can live healthier, happier, more fulfilled lives. In a moment of insight, a new life course can be set in motion within a family system and the results can be life changing.