International Systemic Constellations Association

Chapter 9: Using Representatives for Family or System Members

Jacob Levy Moreno, M.D.developed the technique of psychodrama in the 1920’s and 30’s. This approach has clients assign family members to act out other roles within the family in order to help the client realize unconscious family dynamics. This was heavily influenced by psychodynamic formulations.

Family Sculpting has been described as a basic technique of family therapy. It was created by Virginia Satir, MSW who blended this technique with the growing understanding of systems, thus moving beyond the limitations of psychodynamic formulations alone. This 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 the goal of re-shaping the family occurs. Unlike systemic constellations family sculpting allows the client to sculpt the physical posture of various representatives. For example the client may ask a representative to kneel down, turn their head or reach out with their arms.

Ruth McClendon & Leslie Kadis are a couple that run training in family therapy in Canada. They specialise in brief family interventions. Bert Hellinger acknowledges that he trained in family therapy with them and that is where he first encountered family constellations. They practiced Virginia Satir’s family sculpting and family reconstructions.

While Hellinger's constellation also uses visual representation, it is unlike Psychodrama and Family Sculpting in that representatives stand quietly and allow themselves to be impacted internally by the power of the family dynamics which manifest through the Constellation that has been set up by the client. To maximise openness to this possibility the representatives are not sculpted but simply placed in position. Allowing this process to occur combined with the stance of the facilitator is where the phenomenological method comes into play.

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