Select Page

Family Constellations & Systemic Work [Explanation & Examples]

Family Constellations & Systemic Work [Explanation & Examples]

What are family constellations, aka systemic work? Here you will find an explanation of this method and the steps and questions, including examples. Read along…

Why family constellations?

Behavioral patterns that you display in daily life may be related to your “system of origin.” That family system is your biological family: the family with which you have a blood connection.

For example, if you have taken care of your parent in a certain way and you have taken on too much responsibility, then you will see that pattern in your daily life: then you offer your help everywhere and you say: ‘Okay, I will. . ‘ The question then is: whose responsibility is that actually?

In the example above, a shift has taken place in the roles that you should or should not have in a certain phase of your life. You have taken a place where you really shouldn’t be in the family system.

It’s about restoring the roles and taking your own place again. People who are not in the right place, for example, have to deal with …

  • Structural hassle in your life.
  • Relationships that are not going well.
  • Always get fights with your supervisor.
  • Taking on too much responsibility.
  • Feeling guilty too quickly.

If you restore your place in the family system, those kinds of patterns will also start to dissolve.

Everything is family. Heart and lungs are related. Body and mind are family. You and I are family

What are family constellations?

what are family constellations

A family constellation is a method to see where you currently stand in your family system. You do that by placing dolls or real people in a room. These representatives represent your family members. You can then make a change during setup.

“They are like that” is a bow to how it is.

The roles and places in the family system can be restored in such an arrangement. The same way you can honor a space, for example – and the owner of the space.

It is a heroic act if the child can bow to the parents’ inability. If it happens in a constellation, it also happens internally.

The purpose of a family constellation is therefore to gain clarity about your family system and to make the first move to change something. In addition, a family constellation helps with processing  by naming and honoring the (hidden) themes.

You belong to her and not to me.

There are creative things to think of to set up. For example, you can also set up opposites, such as the opposite of the problem. For example, holding on is the opposite of incontinence.

For example, what kinds of themes can you work on?

An example of restoring the balance is, for example:  reaching out / carrying / serving vs leaning / being carried. For example, let someone else take care of yourself : come here, I’ll stay here for you.

For example, have you taken care of your parents? As a result, you can fail to receive care in a relationship. That can be an obstacle in finding a relationship.

Take the representative with you to the youth years to feel that one of the above directions (reaching out vs leaning) was missing. Let it be felt. And then you can change something in that constellation.

Resting in yourself or giving from / to family members …

How do you portray a representative?

family constellations explanation meaning what is it

The coachee does the following:

  1. Put your hands on the representative’s shoulder. Feel how it is to be ‘father’.
  2. Compose this person by guiding him / her somewhere in the room with your hands. So you literally put the person somewhere.
  3. “You are {my father} and your name is …” 

Questions that are asked in a family constellation

In a family constellation, a representative and / or coachee can be asked for each position:

  • Experience what it is like.
  • And what is the difference now? And what makes it different here?
  • What do you notice?
  • And how does it feel now to see it like this? And where do you notice that? Later: and how does it feel different now?
  • What in your family could be the cause?
  • Is this the case, do you recognize anything about it?
  • What do you want now anyway? One or the other?
  • What move would you like to make?
  • I see you do x. What is happening?
  • Ask the field representatives how they feel.
  • What do you need?

The family constellator does not interpret. Only the differences are asked.

More systemic sentences

systemic work

Just say:

  • You hurt me a lot.
  • I have had a lot of grief.
  • And I felt very small.
  • What else would you like to say to her?
  • I want to do it myself.
  • Could you help me? I’d like to get closer to you.

You do it yourself: you don’t need anyone for it

You can do a family constellation with the help of representatives or dolls. Your family does not actually have to be there. In fact, they don’t even need to know you’re doing it. You do it completely with yourself and yet it will have an effect in the outside world. This is the principle “the world is your mirror.”

What your parents have done is your fate and you have your answer to it. Leave with your parents what is with them – “You may be as you are” – and leave with yourself what is yours.

The founder of systemic work / family constellations

Founder Bert Hellinger was a very active Christian and he had knowledge of psychotherapy. Later he came into contact with NLP and many other cultures. In this way his working method ‘family constellations’ arose. In the meantime, family constellations have become a household name in the Netherlands.

Example family constellation & experiences

In the video below you will find examples and experiences of family constellations.

Family constellations work through the sixth sense: it doesn’t make sense

Family constellations are phenomenological. Nobody knows how it works. That it works, we see that in patterns and we can feel it.

Family constellations is soul work.

The set-up itself also requires few instructions. Representatives don’t need that many instructions: the knowing field is created. For example, if the coach-client looks at the floor without anything visible, that means 9 out of 10 times that the relative in question has died.

Systemic Bedding Questionnaire

If you just have a normal conversation with someone – without literally doing family constellations – you can use the questionnaire below to still obtain information from the systemic bed of a certain behavior. The systemic base, by the way, always has to do with the father or the mother.

  • How did your youth provide a breeding ground or source for this expertise? For example, from taking over or selling off and doing the opposite. Or loss or pain from their youth, which transforms into strength.
  • How was your talent visible as a young child?
  • What role did your parents play in this?
  • How do you recognize your father or mother in this talent?
  • From what loss or from what effort within your family did this talent arise?
  • To whom are you extremely loyal through this talent?
  • How was it inevitable that you were going to do this?
  • What have you just received and kept?
  • What have you opposed and gone against?
  • Where do you recognize this in your system?
  • Who in the system did this happen to in your youth?
  • Who was so good at giving you …

Working systemically in organizations: organizational constellations

Below you can see a visual example of organizational constellations.

Set up a minimum of three people. There is no tension with two people. With three, yes. The tension is led by the three. We are part of systems (and one big world system). So if you work with a voltage triangle, it will affect other systems.

Books about systemic work

We recommend the best books about family constellations, by and about Bert Hellinger. You will also find Ingrid Dykstra’s book about family constellations with children.

Systemic coaching & learning family constellations? Family constellations training…

In a course on family constellations or systemic coaching, you can learn more about:

  • Shape balance
  • Systemic entanglements
  • Systemic ordering principles
  • The genogram

On your success!

Read this next:  NLP Criticism: Why NLP Doesn't Work [Dangerous]

About The Author


Hello! Thanks for reading these articles. My intention is to make happiness as simple and clear as posssible. By the way, excuse my English. I am not a native English speaker since I live in Amsterdam. Much appreciated if you use the comments to make suggestions on my grammar. See ya in another blogpost!