WHAT IS FAMILY CONSTELLATIONS?
The first question I am usually asked when mentioning in conversation that I am a Family Constellations Facilitator is,
“What on earth is that?”
This is sometimes followed up with, “Does it have something to do with Astrology?” or “Does my whole family have to come along?”
The answer to the latter two questions is quite simply, “No.”
The answer to the first one needs a bit more explanation.
Family Constellations is a trans-generational healing modality which explores the deep, unconscious dynamics which occur within a family system and how these often contribute to the challenges experienced in our everyday lives. A wide range of problems, even beyond family issues, can be addressed successfully through constellation work. These include: relationship difficulties; illnesses and diseases; dealing with the effects of abuse; depression and anxiety; career issues and many others.
The Traditional Model
In its formative years Family Constellations was done mainly “in-the-round”, where a group of about 15 to 20 people would sit in circle for a one day or weekend workshop. The facilitator would work directly with between 5 and 10 of the delegates in a day, depending on the theme of the workshop and the length of the constellations.
The process starts with the facilitator conducting a short interview with the client (sometimes referred to as “the issue holder”) in order to establish some family background. These questions might include:
Were there any special circumstances surrounding your birth? Where are your parents and grandparents from? How many siblings do you have? Have there been any early or unusual deaths in the family? Have there been any adoptions, miscarriages or abortions? Has there been any injustice that you know of in the family? And so on!
Based on the feedback from the client, the facilitator will identify certain themes or patterns within the family system and decide upon an entry point. The client will be asked to choose members of the circle to "represent" specific family members and to place them in the work area generally referred to as the Field. Without doing anything - simply by intention – these representatives will take on the thoughts and feelings of the family member or ancestor they are "representing". Through observation and feedback, the facilitator will be able to identify the hidden patterns that lie beneath the family story and move the constellation towards a healing resolution.
Essentially what is happening is: the representative acts as a conduit to connect with the Soul of the person they are representing - whether living or dead. At that level there is none of the “story” on which we expend so much of our daily energy – only love. By revealing the love that exists behind even some of the grizzliest human stories, we create a new picture at the Soul level. This then filters down into the person’s everyday experiences in the weeks that follow, and a new healthier script emerges.
The Individual Setting
Not all clients are comfortable dealing with personal issues in a group setting, and choose to experience the process in an individual session. Because there are no other people present to act as representatives, the facilitator makes use of props to represent the family members. Some of those used are small plastic dolls; mats or actual shoes placed on the floor, or my personal favorite, gem stones. The process differs slightly from the group setting, but is just as effective – and sometimes quite extraordinarily so.
The process can also be facilitated in such a way that the client does it “in their minds eye” by visualization of the family members. This is a particularly useful way of working over the telephone or via Skype.
It's impossible to say how many times it is necessary for a person to do a Family Constellation. Some people come once and are able to shift the issue they have presented, while others have deep traumas which may take several constellations to heal. It is best to experience one constellation and then allow some integration time before returning. For some this may be weeks, while for others it may be months.
Occasionally someone finds the work too challenging, or they are not yet ready to embrace the new "picture" that is presented. It takes a determination for real change, and courage, to do this work - but the rewards are tremendous.
In whatever way it is done, a Family Constellation is a magical and a truly unique experience. Even after over a decade of facilitating scores of workshops and hundreds of individual sessions I continue to be surprised and delighted by the power of this modality. It is at once expanding and humbling. Anyone experiencing it will probably never look at the nature of family relationships the same way ever again.
This therapeutic approach was made widely popular by the innovative and at times controversial German psychotherapist Bert Hellinger. He first encountered the work when training in the UK with Family Therapists Ruth McClendon and Leslie Kadis. They coined the term Family Constellations as it dealt with an individual’s placement within a broader cluster of family members, captured by the term “constellations”. To avoid any confusion with Astrology, it is also now sometimes referred to as Family Systems Theory.
During the last four decades Hellinger has investigated and integrated most of the major psychotherapeutic models which have emerged in the West. Starting his career as a Catholic priest, he spent 16 years working as a missionary to the Zulu in Marianhill in what was then Natal. The influence of his time with the Zulu, their rituals, honouring of ancestors and connection to the forces of nature, would shape much of what he later developed. After 25 years as a priest he defrocked and returned to Europe where he studied Psychoanalysis in Vienna.
Thereafter Hellinger embarked on an exhaustive exploration of other modalities, from Arthur Janov’s Primal Therapy; Eric Bern’s Transactional Analysis; Milton Erickson’s Hypnotherapy right up to Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) – and everything in between. Although he has passed the age of 90, Hellinger is still very active in the work.
Today the Family Constellations model is practiced by thousands of facilitators in about 35 countries around the world. It has now almost taken on a life of its own and has been enriched by the cultural influences, creativity of individual facilitators, and new insights from emerging modalities.
Involvement in a workshop happens at three levels:
As a member of the Circle you will experience the unique healing energy that is created, and witness other people's constellations. It is an "eye- opening" experience, and you will probably never look at the nature of family relationships the same again.
You may "represent" a member of someone's family in their constellation. Without doing anything - simply through intention - you will take on the thoughts and feelings of the family member or ancestor you are "representing". Through your feedback, the facilitator will be able to move the constellation towards a healing resolution.
You may do a personal constellation dealing with an issue that is of concern to you. This is probably unlike anything you may have experienced, and is literally "beyond words".
Family Constellations Workshops
Sunday 15th March 2020
Sunday 26th April
Sunday 12th July
Sunday 30th August
Sunday 6th September - Masterclass for students only
Sunday 29th November
Venue: 35 Cowley Road
Time: 8.30 for 9am to 5pm
Fees: R 1200 to constellate
R 300 to participate
A five day Training Intensive covering the Basic Principles and Theories of Family Constellations.
Cape Town: 19 to 23 February 2020 Fee: R 6 650
Johannesburg: 29 April to 3 May 2020 Fee: R 7 950
Dates: Fridays & Saturdays
Times: 9am; 11am; 2pm & 4pm
Dur: 2 hours
Fee: R 1100
Venue: 25 Harry De Stadler Close
Fish Hoek, Cape Town
25th April to 5th May 2020
Times: 9am; 11am; 2pm & 4pm
Dur: 2 hours
Fee: R 1350
Venue: 35 Cowley Road
Goodwill Family Constellations
I am offering Goodwill Family Constellations Workshops on one Sunday of every second month in Cape Town.
These will be held at the Schoenstatt Retreat & Conference Centre, Constantia, on the following Sundays:
9th Feb; 6th April; 7th June; 2nd August; 4th October and 1st November 2020
My intentions for these workshops:
To offer an opportunity for anyone to be able to witness and learn about Family Constellations
To give those who cannot afford the going rate of between R 1000 and R 1350 the possibility to constellate
To offer all students of Family Constellations the opportunity to learn through witnessing and representing
To create a community of like-minded people who are dedicated to their own healing and to supporting the healing journeys of others.
To give back to the community some of my experience of this a special modality - which really changed my life beyond measure.
The contribution is R 100 per person - cash on the day - to cover venue hire and refreshments. You bring your own lunch. Attendance will be limited to 40 participants on a first-come-first-booked basis.
Please email me directly, rather than booking through a friend.
I decide on the day who will constellate and about 7 or 8 attendees will be given the opportunity to do an individual constellation on the workshop. Those who book and simply don’t show up will not be allowed to book again.
Please let those whom you feel may benefit from this work know about the workshops - especially those who can't afford therapy.
For more information, please email me on