Family Constellations - Historical Development
The fundamental idea that the family is an interactive unit affected by past generations and that it operates by a set of unifying principles is at the foundation of Family Therapy. Its evolution can be traced by following the development of influential theories and approaches pioneered by Murray Bowen, Virginia Satir, Salvador Minuchin, the MRI group in Palo Alto, and the Milan Group in Italy.
Beginning in the early 60s, renowned family therapist Virginia Satir recognized that a symptom manifest in one member of the family had a function in balancing the system, and that system had a part in maintaining the symptom. Over time, Satir and others expanded on this concept and established a three-generational model called Family Reconstruction.
Family Therapy grew from practice to theory as Salvador Minuchin began his model of Structural Family Therapy, focusing on family hierarchy and boundaries, and the belief that interventions could aid families in interacting productively. Around the same time, the Milan Group in Italy began to work with families and concluded that many issues involved the family as a whole, not just an individual; they also observed a repetition of patterns from one generation to another.
One of the first therapists to concentrate on the family of origin was Murray Bowen. At the core of Bowen’s theory was the concept of differentiation - examining the degree of emotional reactivity to one’s family. His focus was helping individuals to avoid becoming "swallowed-up" by predicable family dynamics. Strategic Family Therapy and later Brief Therapy developed as an outgrowth of the work of Gregory Bateson, Paul Watzlawick, Richard Fisch, and the MRI Palo Alto group on patterns of family communication.
Jay Haley, and former wife, Cloé Madanes, emerged as leaders in the field using the teachings and techniques of Milton Erickson, M.D., a distinguished hypnotherapist whose work concentrated on interactive patterns. These are just a few of the major theorists who helped create a body of knowledge and a way of intervening with individuals, couples, and families that went beyond the confines of psychodynamic work. Among their seminal ideas was the notion that the individual symptom should be seen as a function of the whole system – and the therapeutic focus should be expanded to include all members of the family.
In Jacob and Zerka Moreno's Psychodrama methodology, clients assigned family members to act out other roles within the family to help the clients realize unconscious dynamics in the family. Family Sculpting, created by Virginia Satir and advanced by Fred and Bunny Duhl and David Kantor, was considered an effective method of blending the cognitive and the experiential by physically arranging the family members as the client sees them, so that a goal of re-shaping the family could occur. While Family Constellations also use visual representation, the practice is unlike Psychodrama and Family Sculpting in that representatives stand quietly and allow themselves to experience the internal impact of the family dynamics, manifest through the Constellation set up by the client.
Bert Hellinger added significantly to Family Therapy by offering new insights to systemic psychotherapy – what he calls "orders of love." He has shown that love is at work behind all human behavior; that there is a great need for balance in giving and taking, and in gain and loss within any system; and that every member, living or dead, has an equal right to belong. Hellinger’s Family Constellations are also distinctive in other aspects, including his focus on the healing power of the Soul.
© Jamy Faust
Faust, J., Faust P. The Constellation Approach: Finding Peace Through Your Family Lineage. Berkeley: Regent Press, 2015, 325-6.
The root is covered. It covers what will come to light later. The roots contain, in a condensed form, what already is but has not yet seen the light of day. The root nurtures, holds, and carries the future growth which will emerge from it.
I see my roots in my father, my mother, my grandfathers, and all my ancestors. I know I am only the continuation of this ancestral lineage.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
We were taught by Bert Hellinger, who developed this work and many of the original facilitators. Our Approach is further influenced by Barbara Brennan and her broad vision of the Human Energy Field and by Ralph Metzner and his vast understanding of Human Consciousness.
Jamy and Peter Faust
The Constellation Approach™
750 Pleasant Street, Belmont, MA 02478