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Family Constellations - Seeing the bigger picture

As a trained counsellor I have worked in the addictions field for a number of years, my special interest now lies in trauma and family systems. My interest in family systems grew after having noticed the deeply felt pain experienced by many clients in regards to trauma passed on through their families. It appeared that despite extensive psychotherapy, some people were still left with feelings of guilt and shame along with strong feelings of not belonging.

I myself come from a complex family background and felt plagued by feelings of guilt and over responsibility for anything that went wrong in my family and indeed my wider network. I also experienced terrible emotional pain from feelings of yearning and longing for a place to belong, a family, a relationship, anything to help me feel whole.

In my search for my own healing I came across a therapist who used family constellations, it was revolutionary for me. And having now trained in Family Constellations I want to share this profound work with people in need of healing.

The Family Constellation method was founded by Bert Hellinger, who studied and treated families for more than 50 years, observed that many of us unconsciously "take on" destructive familial patterns of anxiety, depression, anger, guilt, aloneness, alcoholism and even illness as a way of "belonging" in our families. Bonded by a deep love, a child will often subconsciously sacrifice his own best interests in an attempt to ease the suffering of a parent or other family members.

Constellations are usually carried out with a group of people, where members of the group play the roles of representatives for family members or sometimes other concepts e.g. love, shame etc. Or parts of a person such as heart, body and mind. However, it also works in individual sessions where small figures can be used to represent family members or even where one can hold family members in one’s mind. It is a highly creative way of working.

This work uniquely uncovers destructive family dynamics that may be lingering beneath the surface. By using resources symbolised by representatives and putting people into the rightful place within the system the order of things can be restored and love can flow freely in the system. By seeing clearly the dynamic that is playing out and feeling in the body the shift when letting go of what doesn’t belong to us along with honouring of each other’s fate and place within the system, great healing takes place.

An integral part of the model is attending to and observing what “Hellinger” calls the order of love.

The orders of love with respect to the personal conscience:

- The need for bonding or belonging.

- The need to maintain a balance between giving and taking.

- The need for order (safety of social convention and predictability).

The orders of love with respect to the systemic conscience:

- Everyone who is a member of the system has the right to belong.

- Those who come first have (a form of) priority over those who come later.

- Those who come first give to those who come later.

- With regard to systems, later systems have priority over earlier systems.

It appears that if the orders aren’t adhered to love is blocked within the family system and entanglements occur.

In order to belong in our family system we have to abide by the “conscience” of system the rules that keep the family together. This is not connected to right or wrong an example of this is say in a family where committing crime is the norm, to belong we must commit crime,

A person will experience feelings of guilt if they disregard their family conscience this leads to feelings of not belonging. Often in loyalty to their system and in particular their parent’s people will limit themselves in their own lives in a vain attempt to belong.

By using this method deeply felt pain can be relieved often more quickly than more traditional psychotherapy might do. It is an alternative approach which is becoming more recognized in the UK.

I have trained for two years in family Constellations and have been taking part in this field for 8 years. It has transformed my work and my life, I feel it is the most important work I have done so far in my career as a therapist.

If you'd like to learn more and experience Family Constellations I am running workshops in Cambridge, the first being on August 13th at The Bath House on Gwydir St, Cambridge.

Details can be found on Eventbrite here.

Authors Bio


Sharon Daniel is an Addictions Counsellor and works from her Private Practice which is based in Cambridge. Sharon trained at Bath University as a counsellor specialising in Addictions. She is FDAP accredited with over a decade of professional experience in helping people overcome many issues - such as destructive behavioural patterns including addictive disorders, I also specialise in family therapy and trauma ,anxiety ,low self-worth and relationship problems.

You can get in touch with Sharon via her website at Cambridge Clarity Counselling

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