Family Constellations

Family Constellation is a healing approach focused on solutions

Constellation is a unique approach to well-being, happiness, and fulfillment. It provides an approach to seeing your personal, professional, or family life through a larger lens. A view that offers increased mobility and freedom. A view where constraints dissolve into possibilities, and change can take root and flourish.

Constellation is an experiential process that is significantly different from coaching or talk therapy, usually requiring only a single session of about an hour to achieve a real difference. It can be done privately or in a group setting. The work is widely known and practiced in Europe, and is becoming more and more common in the US.

Most people use a Family Constellation to look at issues affecting either their present family (spouse/partner, children) or their family of origin (parents, siblings, grandparents and other ancestors). It is also possible to look at other questions or challenges: Systemic Constellation investigates questions involving career, community, nature, business, or government.

Constellations invite you to:

  • Uncover unconscious defenses that limit you, then move beyond them

  • Discover new ways of releasing pain, sorrow, and long-held resentments

  • Release yourself from patterns that limit your experience of life

  • See what has taken place in your history, see what can be resolved, and see what resources your ancestors can provide for you

  • Make important decisions with greater confidence

If you want an alternative approach or a great adjunct to traditional therapy, counseling, or coaching, consider experiencing an individual Constellation, or attending a Constellation Workshop. You can read more below or schedule a free consultation. Suzi Tucker also wrote a beautiful blog about what can happen at a Family Constellation workshop.

A family constellation using toy horses: older sister in front, mom behind, younger sister and brother on the right.

A family constellation using toy horses: older sister in front, mom behind, younger sister and brother on the right.

Individual Family constellation using horse figurines

When we look at a family system using a three-dimensional representation, we engage powerful parts of our brain that are not easily accessed using just words. The picture above shows how a client set up her family of origin using toy horses. The client is represented by the horse in front and to the left. Her mother is the larger black horse. Her younger sister is next to Mom and her younger brother is next to her younger sister. The client selected these horses from the table in back that contains the available horses. She will add more horses later, but this was her initial set up. 

The client was exploring her relationships with her younger siblings as well as her mother. Using these horses to represent her family, she was able to see the family system and her role in it in an entirely different way. Looking at the family and considering some questions I offered, she was also able to gently explore some painful memories from childhood. She was also able to experience how her feelings changed when I moved various horses into different positions on the table. This constellation lasted about 30 minutes. The constellation ended with me placing her entire family (including her father) into the "natural" configuration with parents side-by-side and behind the children, and the children arranged by birth order. This enabled her to see that some roles she was given by her parents as a child were not appropriate. Using some simple healing statements she was able to give the responsibility for this back to her parents, thus freeing herself of an unnecessary and unwarranted burden she had carried since childhood. From this new, adult perspective she was able to resolve many of the painful feelings and release herself from her previous unconscious resentment.

The client later reported that her mother now is more respectful to her, and their relationship is also more joyful. Even when her mother exhibits some undesirable behavior, the client is now able to hold a healthier boundary and not let resentment creep in. It has also improved her relationships with her own family and loved ones.

Wooden figures can also be used for individual constellations.

Wooden figures can also be used for individual constellations.

Family constellation workshops

Humans are social creatures and we understand and appreciate at a subconscious level much of what is involved with surviving and thriving in the world. When we see someone’s family dynamic played out in a constellation, we relate to it and learn from it because it evokes similar experiences in our lives:  How does this person face her life’s challenges? How does this man relate to his wife, to his children? What can we learn from this person’s missteps and successes? What unconscious influences come from previous generations?

We all carry inner images of the family we come from, and these images and memories can be revealed in a constellation and brought to life by the representatives who participate in the constellation. This puts the images on a stage where you can watch them evolve. Viewing your family system from a distance enables objectivity and a larger perspective. Old patterns in your family system can be played out differently with healthier results. It is a non-judgmental and highly experiential way for you to see the complex dynamics of your family history and to physically and emotionally experience the process of righting wrongs. 

When it is your turn at the workshop to see your constellation, you sit next to the facilitator and begin by telling him or her what the issue is. After this initial interview, the facilitator suggests a starting configuration. For example, a simple constellation might consist of three representatives: a representative for you and two for your parents. You select a representative for each from the workshop attendees. The workshop participants are typically sitting in a circle and the constellation unfolds inside the circle. Participation as a representative is completely voluntary, and no experience is required but most people choose to represent after they have witnessed at least one or two constellations.

As you select each representative, you place him or her in a starting position within the circle. Placement is completely up to you and is done based on intuition or "feel." You then sit next to the facilitator and watch the constellation as it unfolds. The facilitator starts the movement of the constellation by inviting the representatives to pay attention to and follow what their body wants to do. Representatives usually develop very quick impressions of where they want to be in relationship to the other representatives, and will move to a more preferred position. Once this initial movement reaches a stable point, the facilitator may then ask various representatives what they are noticing and feeling. The facilitator may check in with you occasionally to see if what is happening in the constellation seems relevant and meaningful. The facilitator may also bring in additional representatives if something is discovered in the constellation that calls for an additional element. Clients usually are surprised by how faithfully the constellation represents actual family dynamics.

Eventually, the facilitator consults with you and ends the constellation when it seems to have reached a resolution. Solutions to problems arise when respect, inclusion and reconciliation are present in the family system. The solution is for you alone:  there may be no change in any of your real family members, but the constellation solution enables you to shift into a new place and hold a healthier and freer energy while interacting with your family.