By Nick Jankel

Author, Keynote Speaker, Leadership Theorist, Transformational Coach, Wisdom Teacher, Co-Creator of Bio-Transformation Theory & Practice®

Ditching the Baggage with Family Constellations Therapy and Psychodrama?

Family Constellations Therapy is a powerful, quick and cost-effective way of getting to the bottom of your problems and helping you to find solutions. Constellations are about working with others to explore the energy in your family dynamics and gaining insight into what’s really going on there – so you can let go of the baggage once and for all. Psychodrama is an exciting way to explore your issues and blocks by using dramatization, role-playing and other methods – to see yourself in a new way and try out new ways of being.

Getting Unstuck from Old Patterns & Trying out New Roles 

If you’ve been for counselling or psycho-therapy but still feel that your issues are with you to stay, you might be drawn to Family Constellations Therapy (also called Systemic Constellation Therapy), or Psychodrama. FCT is a gentle and sensitive therapy modality that can help if you have depression or relationship issues. With FCT you can learn to untangle yourself from ways of being carried through generations of your family and reach a resolution that allows you to move forward. You may be the ‘issue holder’, working on your own personal issue in this session, while some of the other participants are ‘representatives’ – they help you to map our your family dynamics. They’ll give feedback on what they feel, which can give you insight into your unconscious connection with your family ancestors, and how you may be repeating their patterns. For example, if you have trouble connecting with the people around you, you may find that a grandfather was ostracized from his family, felt isolated as a result, and carried that forward into future generations. By making these patterns conscious, we’re empowered to release them. It may not be an easy experience at the time, and can be pretty intense, but the growth that comes out of FCT keeps many people coming back for more.

Psychodrama has similar personal-growth and insight-promoting intentions, but it’s different from FCT because it involves direct re-enactment of scenes from your personal history or from an internal mental scenario. Or you might act out a future situation you want to prepare for. This gives you a chance to have a fresh look at your behavior and understand what’s really happening, to face your fears and see them objectively. Because psychodrama lets you see yourself from the outside, it also lets you practice new roles in a safe way. Other group members take the role of your significant others in the drama, and share how they relate to and can learn from the issue. Psychodrama can help you find your way out of depression, post-traumatic stress, phobias, eating disorders, substance abuse, and self harm – as well as stressful situations in your family and relationships.


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Family Constellation Workshops and Psychodrama Sessions: Getting Started

You can choose to experience a constellation over a one or two day workshop, or in a private session – just Google to find one near you. You don’t need the other person in your issue to be there – useful if you have an awkward relationship – though people have found that the resolution often seems to affect these significant others despite their non-attendance. But be clear on your intention: do FCT with the motivation to find resolution for yourself – not to change another person. If you want to check out FCT without exposing your own issues you can first attend as a representative. If you decide to try psychodrama, you’ll most likely do it in a group setting, conducted and produced by a trained psychodrama director. Read more about it in ‘Psychodrama: A Beginner’s Guide‘ by Zoran Djuric. Whichever therapy you choose, come with an open mind and a sense of willingness to get the maximum healing experience.

Now for the Theory: Morphic Fields & Spontaneity-Creativity 

Family Constellations Therapy uses what some would see as pretty far-out concepts, but basically the idea is that there is energy within family systems that connects each member to the others. There is a natural order to a family, and when someone doesn’t feel like they belong in this natural order, this has negative effects on not only themselves and the current generation, but future generations as well. When this is corrected in a FCT session, deep change can happen. A ‘knowing field’ or ‘morphic field‘ – a bit like a psychic force-field of energy – is created when representatives of an issue are put in certain spatial relationships to each other in a constellation. It’s the same morphic field that exists in your family of origin, which the representatives ‘tune into’ – and this guides everyone present on how to unfold the issue and find possible ways to heal the damaging dynamic.

Psychodrama is called an ‘action method’ and is often used in psychotherapy. Unlike FCT, which looks at the energy in each of the representatives of an issue, psychodrama actually replays events or situations in a person’s life. Moreno, who developed it, came up with the theory of ‘spontaneity-creativity’. He believed that the best way we can respond creatively to a situation is to be spontaneous, to improvise and respond in the moment. This opens a door to discovering new solutions and finding new possibilities for roles in our lives, so we don’t stay stuck in the same old patterns that don’t work anymore. Psychodrama uses techniques like ‘mirroring’, where you (the protaganist) first acts out an experience, then steps out of the scene and watches while another actor takes your part. Fascinating experience! Then you get a chance to comment on the action and even re-enter the scene. Another technique is ‘doubling’. Your ‘double’ will tap into whatever feelings you’re not able to express because you’re held back by inhibition or other feelings.

The Evolution of Family Constellations and Psychodrama

Family Constellations originated with Bert Hellinger in the mid 1990’s when he worked as a family therapist. He is a German psychotherapist influenced by his studies in psychoanalysis, gestalt therapy, and transactional analysis. He used biologist Rupert Sheldrake’s concept of the morphic field in the theory behind Systemic Constellations. Before that, Hellinger used to be a priest, and now still practices and teaches FCT in his eighties. Constellations has taken off in Europe in a big way and has started to become popular worldwide, especially in esoteric and new age circles. Family Constellations also continues to evolve as a therapy, but the principles have stayed the same. Psychodrama was developed by Romanian-born psychiatrist Jacob L. Moreno, (1889–1974) and went through further changes from collaboration with his wife, Zerka Moreno. Moreno rejected Freudian theory popular at the time, and claimed to go beyond the frontiers of Freud’s ideas with his work. As the first recognized group psychotherapy method it spread to over 100 countries and has influenced lots of other kinds of psychotherapy. Psychodrama is sometimes offered in mental health programs, schools and businesses.

How will this help you to transform your problems and pain?

Family Constellations Therapy and Psychodrama give us a way out of old, stuck patterns, getting us moving forward again from our family and personal histories.


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