The Origin and Inspiration for the format of Journey of Profound Healing
"Family constellations is a therapeutic approach designed to help reveal the hidden dynamics in a family or relationship in order to address any stressors impacting these relationships and heal them.
This alternative approach may help people seeking treatment view their concerns from a different perspective, and therapists may offer the family constellations approach as a treatment for issues proving difficult to treat with traditional therapy.
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. Proponents of family constellations believe the method to be less restrictive than other methods of therapy and support its capacity to allow people to see different perspectives and alternate solutions.
This approach draws from a number of other modalities, including Gestalt therapy, psychoanalysis, Virginia Satir's family sculpting, psychodynamic therapy, hyponotherapy, systemic family therapy, and Zulu beliefs.
Although the representatives speak very little, the sense of knowing believed to result from the process is said to be 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 know the seeker or are 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.
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
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, but because of the subjective therapeutic process and experiential nature of family constellations, family constellations therapy is not an evidence-based approach.
Critics have questioned a number of Hellinger's ideas, particularly those impacting his family constellations work with individuals seeking help, and the outcomes of his therapy.
Critics have voiced the following concerns, among others:
- His patriarchal view of the family system typically leads to the conclusion that any matrimonial difficulties are the fault of the wife.
- Hellinger has expressed his belief that homosexuality is a "disease" to be cured rather than a natural and unalterable aspect of one's nature and claims to have cured an individual from this "disease" with a family constellation workshop.
- The German critical agency Forum Kritische Psychologie reported four cases of people seeking treatment for obsessions they reported developing as a result of attending Hellinger's family constellations workshop, and a Dutch psychiatrist reported an additional four cases of individuals experiencing mental health concerns they said developed after they attended a workshop.
- One method developed by Hellinger purports to treat trauma resulting from incest (namely, a father's abuse of his daughter) by having the person representing the daughter kneel and thank the person representing the father for the experience. This, according to Hellinger, will restore harmony within the family. Hellinger has also expressed the belief that fathers sexually abuse their daughters when the mothers repeatedly reject their sexual advances, effectively placing the blame for the abuse with the mother.
- Hellinger has stated war criminals should not be blamed for their crimes, as they were only following orders from "higher authority" and has, in family constellations workshop sessions, instructed victims of war crimes to perform a ritual of gratitude to the representatives of those who have committed crimes against them.
- Participants in Hellinger's workshop sessions have reported his anti-Semitic views are often apparent. He has reportedly led Jewish participants to view their Jewish descent as a negative aspect of their identity.
- Family Constellations. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://familyconstellations.net/?page_id=971
- Family constellations, an interview with Bert Hellinger. (2007, August 28). CureZone. Retrieved from http://www.curezone.org/forums/fm.asp?i=951654#i
- FC Explained. (2015). Retrieved from http://familyconstellations.com.au/fc-explained
- Nimis, H. (2005, September). Bert Hellinger's controversial therapy. Retrieved from http://afa.home.xs4all.nl/alert/engels/hellinger_e.html
- Questions and Answers. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://familyconstellations-usa.com/questions-and-answers
- Sethi, Y. (2010, December). Does the Process of Family Constellations Improve Relationships and Wellbeing? Retrieved from http://familyconstellations.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/research_Dec_2010_doc1.pdf
- Wolynn, M. (n.d.). Http://www.hellingerpa.com/constellation.shtml. Retrieved from http://www.hellingerpa.com/constellation.shtml