Constellations are either done one-on-one by a facilitator and a client, or in a group. In both cases, it is NOT necessary for other family members to be present for the work to take place.
A Constellation in a Group
A constellation in a group begins in a workshop setting. Usually, participants and a facilitator sit in a circle in a quiet room. The workshop begins when the facilitator gives an introduction to the work. Often the participants are given the opportunity to say why they’ve come to the constellation—to state whether they’ve come to work on a particular issue, to observe, or to offer their services as a representative.
When a person chooses to work on an issue, he or she sits beside the facilitator and states the issue as succinctly as possible. Usually there is some minimal conversational give and take between the facilitator and the participant to ensure that the issue is understood. Then the facilitator directs the participant to choose several representatives from the group—one to represent himself and others to represent family members whom the facilitator believes are important to the issue.
The participant is then asked to quiet himself and place the representatives—in silence and without posing them—in the room in a way that represents his picture of the family. At this point, the set up may look a lot like Virginia Satir’s family sculpting or Moreno’s psychodrama. However the similarity ends quickly. The focus immediately shifts from the participant and the facilitator to the representatives.
The representatives are asked to center themselves, and, in service to the participant and his family, simply become aware of how they feel in the positions in which they have been placed. Usually, for a few moments, the facilitator and participant simply watch as the representatives find their place and tune in to their bodily experiences.
After a few minutes, the facilitator asks each representative to describe what they are experiencing and allows them to move about in the room. When the point is reached that reveals and demonstrates the systemic problem, the facilitator, by changing representatives’ positions or through a series of healing sentences, works to uncover a solution to the entanglements they are experiencing. The constellation procedure, which usually lasts between twenty minutes and an hour, often produces surprisingly accurate pictures of family dynamics, and moving depictions of the solution.
The participant may simply witness the constellation from start to finish or may be asked by the facilitator to take part in the final moments of the constellation as it moves toward resolution.
An Individual Constellation
In an individual constellation, the participant and facilitator work using figurines or footprints on the floor to represent the different members of the family. Visualization is often used to come to an understanding of the entanglement and work towards a solution. It is a different, yet nonetheless powerful, experience.
For examples of how a constellation looks, and information on some of my first experiences as a participant in a Family Constellation Workshop, you can read a copy of an article I wrote for the Fall, 2005 edition of Point of Light, Breaking the Cycle of Family Pain.