The foundation of systemic phenomenological work

Our development

Knowledge and insight are never not moving

Bert Hellinger (1925–2019) was the founder of systemic work and family constellations. After retiring as a psychotherapist, he compiled all his knowledge and experience in what he called “Familien aufstellungen”. The psychiatrist Gunthard Weber asked him to create a constellation about his institute: the first organizational constellation. Bert told Gunthard: “You can continue to further develop the organizational constellations.”

The first systemic steps

Jan Jacob Stam – who was very interested in how organizations develop – saw that organizations have their own dynamics, that an organization is not just a collection of people with their own dynamics. In contrast to what was done in Germany, he severed the connection between development and training on organizational constellations from that on family constellations. This disconnection has enabled us to learn a lot about organizational systems and about systems in general, which also allowed further development in the field of family constellations.

Jan Jacob has called the force that Hellinger first called the great soul, and later “Geist”, “the evolutionary force”. This was very well understood in organizations. From then on we no longer looked at the past ‘by default’, but also worked by making an active connection with the (near) future.

Systemic work in training and constellations

Since 1999, Jan Jacob Stam and Bibi Schreuder have organized a number of annual basic training programs on family constellations and organizational constellations. In addition, they themselves attended various conferences and workshops and since 2001 Jan Jacob has organized conferences on systemic work in the Netherlands himself. Bert Hellinger and other early German constellators shared their knowledge at several of our workshops and trainings.

Jan Jacob organized the IOCTI, the International Organization Constellation Training Intensive, in 2004. This drew incredible crowds from all over the world. The IOCTI was organized every two years, twice by someone from a different country each time. By 2020, the IOCTI seemed to have reached its destination: most of the world now knows about organization constellation and there are separate courses that interested people can follow. Jan Jacob and later other colleagues at the BHI as well, have disseminated the idea of organizational constellations by offering courses around the world.

The continuously growing body of knowledge has resulted in the development of several new courses:

  • Systemic pedagogics. Bibi Schreuder was looking for ways to bring her knowledge of constellations into education. However, family constellations are not suitable for teachers, especially when pupils are involved. Bibi therefore developed the first systemic training program without constellations in 2006. In this training, Systemic Pedagogy, all the insights gained from constellations are applied to the daily practice of working with children and (young) adults.
  • Systemic coaching. Bibi Schreuder and Jan Jacob Stam saw that even without constellations, teams and individuals could become aware – by sometimes asking a few questions – that an unseen undercurrent was directing or blocking the organization or a person. This development in the systemic perspective led to the course Systemic Coaching. Bibi and Jan Jacob subsequently wrote the book Systemic coaching.
  • Systemic intervention for organizations. Anton de Kroon and Siebke Kaat developed this training program and published their book Systemisch adviseren. This training program was further developed by Siebke Kaat into the training Systemic Counselling. Petra van der Kop is continuing to further develop this training.

New insights

The systemic perspective also changed. For a long time, constellations were viewed primarily from the perspective of the personal or unitary consciousness and the systemic consciousness. The COVID-19 crisis, in particular, clearly revealed that the evolutionary force is also part of systemic work, with and without constellations. The evolutionary force as a driver of change and transformation.

In family constellations, for example, the main focus was initially on which individuals were missing from a family. Later, we saw that it is more about history, about what happened, than just about persons in that history. And that both the dramatic events themselves, as well as how they were dealt with, are the source of family dynamics. Family constellations are no longer just about the family; for example, countries of origin, the farm or a bankruptcy can also play a role. Just as with organizations, it is not just about the individuals, but events, goals, locations and products can also influence organizational dynamics.

Over the years, we got more and more requests from government authorities, or citizen initiatives that dealt with social issues. This gave rise to social constellations, which look at all the connections in society as a whole. The BHI is increasingly receiving requests to provide systemically support to or to research bigger social projects, for instance on energy transition.

The three mechanisms

The systemic perspective also changed. For a long time, constellations were viewed primarily from the perspective of the personal or unitary consciousness and the systemic consciousness. The COVID-19 crisis, in particular, clearly revealed that the evolutionary force is also part of systemic work, with and without constellations. The evolutionary force as a driver of change and transformation.

In all our training programs, we now integrate the continuous operation of the three mechanisms and how they interact with each other. The evolutionary force is about life and destiny, the personal (or unitary) consciousness serves the survival of the individual or part and the system conscience serves the survival of the whole.

The systemic perspective, with or without the use of constellations, has become a permanent element of personal, organizational and social life.

The systemic perspective has become an integral part of personal, organizational and social life.

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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.