Family Constellation. A tribute to Bert Hellinger.

by Suzana Vaz, 16 October 2019

family constellation

This is an article in memory of Bert Hellinger, the German psychotherapist who developed the method known as Family Constellation. Having travelled for other planes of existence on the 19th of September, Bert Hellinger left a remarkable legacy. At the origin of this system, we find its authors marked empiricism, as well as his experience as clergyman, participation in ecumenical groups, and training as a family therapist.

A brief description of the therapeutic method would simply summarise Family Constellation as the assessment, in the larger family environment, of whether the subject is entangled with the destiny of previous members of the family; and bringing these entanglements to consciousness to help in their release. The effective power of the technique lies in the fact that very little information on external meaningful facts suffices to bring about the entanglement and to enable its release.

In the circles of Family Constellation, volunteers take the roles of the patient’s family members, with astonishing processes of identification as the former accurately portray their characters. Although no explanation has been found for this phenomenon, it is nevertheless universally observed and verified. As for an entanglement, it is quite simply to take and relive the fate of a family member that has lived previously, as Hellinger explains: “If any of the members of the family group have been treated unfairly, there will be in the group a tremendous need for reparation. This means that if the injustice was committed in previous generations it will be represented and suffered subsequently by someone in the family so that order can be restored in the group. Yet this repetition does not restore order and the excluded member of the family will still be treated unfairly by the consciousness of the group”.

During the sessions of Family Constellation, by bringing about the entanglement, the member of the family has the chance to draw a new image of the family. In this process, the fields of force between members of the family shift dramatically, generating solutions and, ultimately, healing. We realize that Family Constellation deal empirically with the energy of a group, a gregarious force, and its fields of influence, re-arranging them, that is, restoring order.

The wealth of knowledge that Bert Hellinger collected in regards to the specificity of roles and bonds interweaving the family system can only be pointed out in this short tribute, but the great healing power of the method he assembled is attested by the growing number of people that use it, Under the broader category of psychodynamic therapy, from the individual to organisations (in companies such as GE, or the legal institution), comprehensive and adaptable, the Family and Systemic Constellation responds pragmatically to the complexity of relational challenges faced by contemporary society.

Although Bert Hellinger has departed, the many examples of the method’s success prove its priceless value, great vitality and the visionary rigor of his legacy. Our heartfelt gratitude to you, Bert Hellinger!