Systemic Constellations

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The Systemic Constellation process is a trans-generational, phenomenological, therapeutic intervention with roots in family systems therapy (psychodrama of Jacob Moreno, Virginia Satir, Iván Böszörményi-Nagy), existential-phenomenology (Brentano, Husserl, Heidegger), and the ancestor reverence of the South African Zulus.[1] A Constellation can serve as an illuminating adjunct process within a conventional course of psychotherapy. While it is rooted in the psychotherapeutic tradition, the method is distinguished from conventional psychotherapy in that, 1) the client hardly speaks; 2) its primary aim is to identify and release deep patterns embedded within the system, not to explore or process narrative, cognitive or emotional content.[2]

The method has been described as quantum quackery, and its founder Bert Hellinger incorporates the pseudoscientific idea of morphic resonance into his explanation of it. Positive outcomes from the therapy have been attributed to conventional explanations such as suggestion and empathy.[3]

Many people contributed to the development of the process; however, the German-born Bert Hellinger (b. 1925) is widely acknowledged as the founder of the process in its modern form. His first book, published in English as Love's Hidden Symmetry,[4] became a best seller in Germany and brought Constellations to public awareness.

Procedure of Systemic Constellations[edit]

Participants are said to experience what is called "representative perception."[5][6][7] This refers to the phenomenon of perceiving emotions and body sensations that are meaningful in relation to the individuals they represent.

Often, what is claimed to emerge is that a member of the current family is unconsciously expressing emotions and behaviors that descended from a previous generation. The living family member‘s problematic behavior or circumstance is thus portrayed as a repetition of—or compensation for—a trauma that occurred in the past. This phenomenon was first identified by Iván Böszörményi-Nagy, who called them Invisible Loyalties.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cohen, D. B. (2006). “Family Constellations”: An innovative systemic phenomenological group process from Germany. The Family Journal: Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families. 14(3), 226-233. (Available for educational purposes from the author at
  2. ^ Cohen 2006
  3. ^ Carroll, Robert T. "Bert Hellinger and family constellations". 
  4. ^ Hellinger 1998
  5. ^ Mahr, A. (1999). Das wissende feld: Familienaufstellung als geistig energetisches heilen [The knowing field: Family constellations as mental and energetic healing]. In Geistiges heilen für eine neue zeit [Intellectual cures for a new time]. Heidelberg, Germany: Kösel Verlag.
  6. ^ Schneider, J. R. (2007). Family constellations: Basic principles and procedures (C. Beaumont, Trans.). Heidelberg, Germany: Carl-Auer-Systeme Verlag.
  7. ^ Ulsamer, B. (2005). The healing power of the past: The systemic therapy of Bert Hellinger. Nevada City, CA: Underwood.
  8. ^ Boszormenyi-Nagy, I. & Spark, G. M. (1973). Invisible loyalties: Reciprocity in intergenerational family therapy. Hagerstown, MD: Harper & Row.


  • Cohen, Dan Booth (2005), "Begin with the work: Constellations in large group sysyems.", in E.J. Lynch & S. Tucker, Messengers of healing: The family constellations of Bert Hellinger through the eyes of a new generation of practitioners., Phoenix: Zeig, Tucker & Theisen .
  • Cohen, Dan Booth (2009), I Carry Your Heart in My Heart: Family Constellations in Prison, Heidelberg, Germany: Carl-Auer-Systeme Verlag  .
  • Franke, Ursula. (2003), The river never looks back: Historical and practical foundations of Bert Hellinger’s family constellations, Heidelberg, Germany: Carl-Auer-Systeme Verlag .
  • Lynch, Ed; Tucker, Suzi (2005), Messengers of healing: The family constellations of Bert Hellinger through the eyes of a new generation of practitioners., Phoenix: Zeig, Tucker & Theisen .
  • Payne, John L. (2005), The Healing of Individuals, Families, and Nations: Trans-generational healing & family constellations, Forres, Scotland: Findhorn Press .
  • Payne, John L. (2006), The Language of the Soul: Trans-generational healing & family constellations, Forres, Scotland: Findhorn Press 
  • Hellinger, Bert; Weber, Gunthard; Beaumont, Hunter (1998), Love's hidden symmetry: what makes love work in relationships, Phoenix: Zeig