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What Is Family Constellation Therapy?

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man

is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

The opening lines of English metaphysical poet John Donne’s (1572-1673) Meditation XVII suggest the interconnectedness of humanity. The lines could also be applied to Family Constellation Therapy, an alternative therapy that explores the relationships between family members.

According to Vern Morin, who is the facilitator for Family Constellation Therapy at Enlightened Solutions, this therapeutic approach is a little different from traditional family therapy. In a video description of the topic on the recovery center’s website, he says that in Family Constellation Therapy we “turn the brain off, and we feel.” Family Constellation Therapy is concerned with the “issues that we think about but don’t deal with, that we aren’t taught to deal with.”

What Is Family Constellation Therapy?

Developed by German psychotherapist Bert Hellinger, Family Constellation Therapy is a type of group therapy led by a therapist or facilitator with special training in the technique. In Family Constellation Therapy, the person participating or receiving the therapy selects other members of the group to serve as stand-ins for his or her actual family members. These people are arranged in a circle, called the family constellation. The surrogates or stand-ins hear about the family history or the issue of concern to the person receiving the therapy. Then the stand-ins are asked to describe how they feel or anything they think regarding the connection between the family members they are portraying and the person getting the therapy. This process frequently leads to a greater sense of understanding and empathy.

What Types of Issues Are Addressed Through Family Constellation Therapy?

Family Constellation Therapy looks at the family as a system and the individual’s role in that system. This can lead to exploring family relationships from generations back and how those impact the present. Family systems frequently have unspoken rules or laws, and problems often occur when someone fails to follow these laws. These are the roots of the beliefs we have that may not work for us anymore, may not be healthy, and may not even be accurate. 

This type of therapy can be particularly helpful when dealing with depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. For these issues, people frequently talk about a genetic predisposition to these conditions or learned behaviors, that can carry on down through multiple generations. In Family Constellation Therapy, you may find that your current issues and behaviors have roots from previous generations that you hadn’t realized.

Benefits of Family Constellation Therapy

Family Constellation Therapy benefits the person receiving the therapy and the group members participating as stand-ins for the actual family members. The person receiving the therapy stands outside the circle and is able to observe dynamics and connections that he or she may not have considered before. The stand-ins are new to the particular situation–they don’t know the person’s family history and or the particular situation being addressed, so they can bring fresh insights and give the person different perspectives to consider. The actual family members being portrayed aren’t there, so the person seeking the therapy is free from worrying about the possibility of hurting their feelings or suffering repercussions for sharing a family secret. The people serving as stand-ins benefit in a couple of key ways. They may recognize aspects of themselves and their family generational dynamics and may gain a greater understanding of their own situation or trauma. In addition, being a surrogate in Family Constellation Therapy is a powerful way for them to be of service, which is an important aspect of the 12-Step philosophy.

The Role of Family Constellation Therapy in Addiction Recovery 

Because Family Constellation Therapy is useful in addressing and healing trauma, it is a very appropriate treatment modality for addictive behaviors because many therapists believe that trauma and attachment issues are at the root of the addiction. The trauma that leads to addiction can be multi-generational and historical or it can be a significant loss, such as the death of a parent in childhood, or violence. Moreover, addiction is viewed as part of the family system, rather than strictly an issue for the person dealing with addictive behaviors.

Future of Family Constellation Therapy

Hellinger originally developed Family Constellation Therapy in response to the trauma caused by World War II. The technique is widely used in Europe, Russia, Asia, and Latin America and is gaining ground in the United States. According to the Enlightened Solutions website (https://enlightenedsolutions.com/about-us/our-staff/), Hellinger has “revolutionized the heart and soul of family therapy by illuminating the unconscious, and often destructive, loyalties within families. Family Constellation work is an effective therapeutic process that helps break destructive family patterns of unhappiness, illness, failure, and addiction. The Family Constellation approach is becoming one of the most rapidly expanding forms of therapy in the world and is practiced in more than 35 countries.”

Enlightened Solutions offers life-affirming therapies for those struggling with addictions to drugs or alcohol. Enlightened Solutions is a licensed co-occurring treatment center, which means that the center offers treatment for the mental health issues that very often are the underlying reasons for addictive behaviors. The center, located on New Jersey’s southern shore, offers a variety of alternative therapies to complement the more traditional talk therapy that they offer. One of the holistic treatment modalities offered is Family Constellation Therapy, which explores the family relationships that play a role in addictive behavior. Other holistic treatment modalities offered include sound healing, yoga, horticultural therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic work, massage, art and music therapy, reiki, and equine therapy. At Enlightened Solutions, each client receives a customized treatment plan drawing from these therapeutic options based on his or her individual needs. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, call (833) 801-5483 today.


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