Family Constellations

Family Constellations

What are Family Constellations?

Family Constellations are a therapeutic approach founded by Bert Hellinger.

The approach was born from psychotherapy, family therapy, group therapy, systemic therapy and phenomenology. Bert Hellinger brought together all these theories in order to develop this new work technique.

Contrary to the first hint, the name of Family Constellations has nothing to do with the stars above or Astrology, but is a short for a German phrase which translates ”to place your family in space” (J’ai mal à mes ancêtres!: La psychogénéalogie aujourd’hui”, Patrice Van Eersel, Catherine Maillard).

This method is an efficient tool in understanding and solving interpersonal matters within families and organizations.

From my point of view, Family Constellations represent the method to explore one’s personal unconscious, as well as the unconscious of the extended family.

Bert Hellinger speaks of the existence of some love rules within families or “orders of love”.

We inherit from our parents both physical traits as well as psycho-emotional ones, that is, specific emotional and behavioural patterns, beliefs about us, others and life. Some of these traits are unconscious, we do not know we have them, but they influence our adult lives.

While being unconscious of these legacies, we will go on transmitting them further on as family models onto our children.

By means of family constellations we can become aware and understand more deeply these patterns, get in touch with them and change them.

Systemic Laws/ Laws of Love in a family:

The same as in nature we have nature laws, the family system will have laws of the family system. When these laws are not followed, there are consequences in the lives of the members.

Knowing these systemic laws, becoming aware and understanding the family dynamics, the healing phrases offered by the facilitator (sentences which reflect what can be seen, what there is) bring about openness and help with finding the balance in certain family situations.

Some of these laws are:

  • In terms of birth order, there is a specific hierarchy: the one who was born first is the first;
  • Parents give, children receive. The gift is life.
  • Parents give to their children what they have received from their own parents.

When these laws are avoided by excluding some family members, by the lack of the mourning for the ones who died young, by keeping secrets involving illegitimate children given for adoption, relationships out of wedlock or that took place before the family marriage, then the consequences can be felt by the individuals in the following generations.

And this is happening for these persons without them even being aware why they feel the way they feel. These feelings may be: depression, addictions, physical and mental disease, difficulties in establishing and continuing long lasting intimate relationships.

How do we work using the method of family constellations?

1. In an individual setting

In the case of individual setting, the client and the therapist meet in the therapy room. The client expresses the difficulty confronting him and the therapist guides him. We use miniatures for the representatives.

2. In a group setting

In the case of a group setting, the client expresses his difficulty, the therapist asks questions and then the client is invited to choose out of the group different representatives for his constellation.

How does a Family Constellations group work?

The client who desires a family constellation comes next to the therapist, in front of the group, and expresses his intention/ wish regarding the facts he would like to change.

The person who wants to work on a specific difficulty confronting himself at present is invited by the facilitator to share some aspects about the issue in matter. The facilitator and the client will briefly discuss this difficulty presented by the client and also about what it is that the client wishes.

Then the client is invited to choose the representatives for the his family members, some aspects of those, etc.

Then the representatives start moving the way they feel. What happens to them (emotions they express, behaviours, what they say), offer relevant information for the client related to his own difficulty.

3. Family Constelations with Horses

Horses are animals that live in the present. In order to feel safe they need to be part of a herd. They are very authentic animals and their being authentic can be seen in their reactions to the environment. This way, the interaction between horses and their interaction with human beings can bring into light some aspects that need to be seen by us or within our family system.

Horses live in fields. They are connected to everything that exists across that field and, by moving and interacting with each other they also manifest whatever there is in the surrounding field of the person who came to work his constellation.

Benefits and Limitations of the Family Constelations


“I believe some people come to constellations due to a need to express themselves and feel themselves heard. Finding out the dynamics behind the facts in their own families is actually a secondary goal. Some other people need, first of all, to discover at least a part of the dynamics at stake, and it is only after that when they become capable of getting in touch with their own feelings regarding the situations.” (Barbara Morgan, „Coming home, a first step into the World of Family Constellations”)

  • The empathy and safety that are created within the group offer support to each and all participants, help him open towards himself and the others.


The Method of Family Constellations is not a “magic” method which brings about quick healing.

Since 2009, when I first got in touch with Family Constellations (first as a trainee in the training program, then as a facilitator) and until now, my vision upon this method and working with it has become richer and richer in nuances. The more I worked with my own traumatic experiences, supporting the groups for my colleagues as a representative for their own constellations, and facilitating family constellations for the participants in the groups I organized personally, the more I understand the value of this approach. At the same time, I am aware of its limitations.

From my point of view, participating in a family constellations group or working on a single constellation will not automatically trigger the healing of a trauma. One group represents just one opportunity/ tool to explore aspects of our psychic at a specific time, which may lead to awareness and emotional relief. For some of the individuals it is enough to take part one time, explore and unblock an aspect of their lives, but healing psychological trauma also implies a long term journey, one that needs support, understanding, empathy, containment and patience.

This type of work is much more efficient when it is included in an individual psychotherapy process. The psychological insights and content which may come into light following family constellations work can become an important material to work with in individual therapy.

Reflections on Family Constellations work

Consciousness and belonging

“Consciousness is a perceiving organ in our system balance that helps us know whether or not we are in harmony with our reference system”. (Bert Hellinger, 2001)

Vivian B. says that regulating the feeling of belonging as children, the discomfort we feel when our need to belong is in danger, the comfort we feel on the other hand when we feel we belong, many a time dominates unconsciously over our lives, influences our actions, thinking and well-being, trust and authority.

Systemic Consciousness

Vivian B. also mentions the fact that systemic consciousness is our unconscious connection with all the members of our system. The impulse of the systemic consciousness is to maintain the integrity of this system by including those aspects which, on a conscious level, the group attempted to exclude, trying so to rebalance the distress and create more harmony.

About Movement in Constellations

In the process of constellations, when the representatives move in accordance with the things they are feeling and they also feel the quality of movement, this is usually a proof for the level of work in the constellation.

When movements are fast and superficial, and they appear from the mind rather than from the body, this means they are rather coming from the level of personal consciousness. Movements on the level of the systemic consciousness are more profound.


„ J’ai mal à mes ancêtres!: La psychogénéalogie aujourd’hui”, Patrice Van Eersel, Catherine Maillard

„Coming home, a first step into the World of Family Constellations”, Barbara Morgan

“In the presence of many”, Vivian Broughton

“Reports on Conferences & Intensives-Moving into the Knowing Field with Horses”, Ruud Knaapen, — The Knowing field, International Constellations Journal

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