Great Smokies Medical Center of Asheville

Archive for the ‘Hellinger Constellations’ Category

Family Constellations

Monday, August 22nd, 2005

by Sheila Saunders, RN, MFT

“Children seldom or never dare to live a happier or more fulfilling life than their parents. Unconsciously they remain loyal to unspoken family traditions, which work invisibly. Family Constellations are a way of discovering underlying consequential family bonds and forces, which have been carried unconsciously over several generations.”

These words of German therapist, Berthold Ulsamer, aptly describe the work developed by Bert Hellinger, renowned German psychoanalyst, psychotherapist, former priest and best-selling author. In working with thousands of family systems, Hellinger has observed a natural order that determines how family dynamics unfold at an unconscious level. Deviations from this natural order in previous generations will affect the lives of successive generations. When this subtle but profound influence is understood, an individual’s suffering is seen in a new light. Then, the same energy that fuels destructive patterns can be shifted to allow for opportunities of growth and change.

Family Constellations are an effective way of revealing unconscious entanglements with the fates of family ancestors. Events such as the premature death of a parent or sibling, the exclusion of a family member, a murder of or by a family member, or victimization of others by a family member can all lead to entanglements, which disturb one’s life and relationships. Severe consequences may result, such as feelings of isolation, depression, mental and physical illness, accidents, and even suicidal thoughts or attempts.

In a workshop setting, clients come with a particular issue they want to address. The issues are often long-standing problems that plague a person’s life, regardless of repeated attempts at change. These conditions arise from the “blind” love of a child towards the family, and are resolved with solutions that allow “enlightened” love to flow. In setting up a family constellation, a client chooses workshop attendees to represent members of his or her family, then places them in relationship to each other, without comment, based on how it “felt” to be in the family. The representatives become a living model of the original family system. In this work, even small movements can provide useful information. Words are kept to a minimum and thus become quite powerful. When the family members are represented by workshop attendees who do not know them or the events that took place, a phenomenon occurs: the representatives begin to notice feelings and thoughts which reflect those of the actual family members.

The best explanation for this phenomenon can be found in the work of renowned author and physicist, Dr. Rupert Sheldrake. This field of energy, called the morphogenetic field, connects people, places and even animals, and has memory and influence. Dr. Sheldrake has documented the existence of this field in a number of books, the most recent of which is entitled “Dogs Who Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home”. Hellinger, having observed the presence of this “knowing field”, learned how to use it to modify previously hidden dynamics, so that the natural order supporting love can be reestablished and love may flow again.

Recent developments have also brought constellations into the realm of the business world in the form of “organizational constellations”. Constellation work is becoming the most rapidly expanding form of therapy in Germany, and is found in more than 80 countries worldwide.

Sheila Saunders is professionally licensed as a Registered Nurse and a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT). Sheila holds Master’s degrees in Clinical Psychology and Homeopathic Medicine and has worked in the psychiatric field for 24 years, providing group therapy at the former John Bradshaw National Treatment Center in Los Angeles, working in children’s residential treatment, psychiatric hospitals, chemical dependency programs, and most recently as a mediator in Superior Court’s Family Court Services. Sheila has trained in Family Constellations with Bert Hellinger himself, as well as with the most experienced international facilitators. Sheila has focused throughout her career on the gentle but profound effects of a wide variety of alternative treatments. She has found Family Constellations to be the most painless and powerful form of healing yet encountered. Sheila offers Family Constellation workshops, individual sessions and study group support at the Great Smokies Medical Center in Asheville, NC. Workshops may also be arranged in your city. Sheila can be reached at 828-273-5015 or

For more information on family constellations, please
visit Systemic Family Solutions at:

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