The foundation of systemic phenomenological work

Are family constellations dangerous?

Family constellations are an increasingly well-known and popular method of gaining insight in personal issues. But are family constellations also dangerous? We are happy to explain how a professional family constellation works and when you as a participant can rely on a safe environment and guidance.

What is a family constellation?

Basically, a family constellation is a different way of looking at a problem or situation that obstructs you. It is a representation of your question, which helps you discover which unconscious patterns and dynamics guide your life.

A facilitator guides the creation of a spatial arrangement (constellation) of that part of the family system that helps to investigate the participant’s question. All relevant elements are given a place. These can be persons (family members or other people) but also abstract elements, such as a country or goal. The elements in the arrangement are represented by representatives (people) or materials.

The constellation makes visible which dynamics exist in the system and the facilitator examines without judgment what in the system wants to be recognized before there is room for change. He does this by looking at the movements and relationships that arise within the constellation itself and among the questioner.

With an intervention, the facilitator tries to find an entrance that brings movement to the system and to the questioner. An intervention can consist of adding elements, asking questions or having sentences spoken. From a new perspective, the questioner can then deal with a question or situation in a very different way.

When to do family constellation?

When you can’t move forward with a situation or have a problem that you keep running into and can’t get changed, despite having decided you want to do it differently.

Although the name implies to many people that a family constellation is about questions or problems from your family system, it certainly doesn’t have to be. A family constellation can work for problems with love relationships, work, children – or any other aspect of your life. Chances are your answer lies within your family system, but you can also address another part of your past with a personal attitude like this.

What’s the origin of family constellations?

Gestalt therapy has been used since the 1940s. Gestalt therapy is a well-known experiential therapy in which there is also room for visual representation. A constellation also has a Gestalt – but the systemic perspective makes it different at the core.

Systemic work and the associated constellations were developed in the 1980s by the German psychotherapist Bert Hellinger. Bert Hellinger was very interested in group dynamics. He increasingly made this aspect part of his research and later his therapies.

His first approach was to list relatives in order of age to gain insight into a person’s background. However, he soon saw that that list was dynamic. Someone was missing from the list, wanted to step back, wanted to look away: the constellation gave insight into an invisible but all-determining system.

Bert Hellinger continued to research and develop this idea. He learned that systems are all-encompassing. He made us aware that we all stand on the shoulders of the experiences of the generations before us. That if we want to be complete, we have to make room for everything in the system, including the elements or persons that you would rather not give a place in you. That if you want to change your entrenched beliefs, you have to look back at patterns from your past.

Bert Hellinger’s ideas have been adopted worldwide. His systemic work has evolved into the family and organizational constellations as we know them today.

So: are family constellations dangerous?

Certainly not. A professional constellation is not dangerous. The facilitator must be well trained and know what he is doing. If you don’t know that, a constellation can have the wrong effect.

What risks does a family constellation entail?

A constellation can release a lot. By definition, it makes room for everything that wants to be seen – including the negative. You need to realize that when you enter a constellation. This applies not only to the questioner, but also to the representatives. You can be asked as a representative for a role that touches on your personal themes.

And there are somewhat elusive risks: there is no good connection between the questioner and the supervisor, something happens that day that causes the questioner or the supervisor to react slightly differently than usual, there is noise in the discussion of the issue, etc.

How do you know if the facilitator/coach is professional and reliable?

You can always inquire which systemic training someone has followed, how many days the training lasted and how much experience the supervisor has with systemic constellations and/or systemic supervision/coaching. Systemic facilitatorship is a practical profession and the more flying hours have been made, the more the facilitator has been able to learn from his or her successes and pitfalls.

A systemic counselor is really present, paying attention to what you bring in, without knowing whether he/she can help you. A systemic facilitator is prepared to take the risk that a constellation or coaching will not provide the questioner with new information. In short: a systemic facilitator has no intention of solving anything, but is willing to embark on the research (adventure) with the questioner.

A facilitator must be free of judgments and convictions. When you bring judgments and, for example, disapprove of certain behavior, you cannot engage in free investigation.

A facilitator must also ensure that his observations are interpreted correctly. When a representative indicates that his love is going elsewhere, it is an energy feeling that can be explained in many ways. It does not automatically mean that the truth is that the person portrayed has a different relationship, it may just as well mean that his work requires a lot of attention and involvement. It is up to the facilitator to convey that space to the questioner.

In our Frequently Asked Questions you can read more about what you can expect from a systemic coach or facilitator. Are you curious about the coaches of the Bert Hellinger Institute? Then get to know our team.

Can we guide you in your family constellation?

The trainers and facilitators of the Bert Hellinger Institute are happy to help you investigate your issue. This can be done in personal coaching or during a family constellation workshop. Do you have any questions? Then contact us and we will think along about the best options for you!


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About the Bert Hellinger Institute

People are constantly evolving. With each other, without each other. In families, in teams, in organizations. Systemic thinking makes us aware of the “why” of our being and doing. Organizational and family constellations create room for movement. The BHI provides courses, workshops and training programs in the field of systemic work, constellations, leadership and coaching. This is how we contribute to the development of people, organizations and society.

For up-and-coming and established leaders. An initiative of the Bert Hellinger Institute.