Monday, March 23, 2009

Inspired and enchanted by Bert Hellinger's Systemic Constellation Work

I’ve just returned from a training on Systemic Constellation Work and I’m truly inspired – not only by the method but the opportunity to meet several helping professionals offering leading-edge healing and change.

Systemic Constellation Work – sometimes called Systemic Family Constellation Work – is a trans-generational healing process developed by Bert Hellinger, a German psychotherapist and former missionary in photo above, about 20-plus years ago and has been spreading rapidly throughout Europe and is gradually coming to the United States.

I am completely enchanted with this approach, which I have been studying and reading about for more than two years – more in depth recently – and I have begun to integrate its principles into my work with psychodrama and the creative arts therapies.

It has a spiritual approach – with lots of talk about the “soul” of a family; Hellinger calls this the “greater force.” Basically, Systemic Constellation Work says that we are connected to our ancestors by an invisible energetic network and that we may carry their pain and difficulties as a way of staying energetically connected to the larger family soul. When we are able to address and heal these energetic entanglements, the ancestors are able to rest peacefully and we stay connected to our family members in more appropriate ways. And, our own lives change gradually for the better.

The training center where I study is the Hellinger Center of D.C., and the trainer is Heinz Stark, who is from Bremen, Germany, and one of Hellinger’s early protégées. You can go to Hellinger Center of D.C. and find several links to Hellinger, Stark and other important trainers as well as papers and lectures by many facilitators. I will warn you that a number of the principles is NOT related to the traditional mental health model – sometimes quite startling in its differences – but I can vouch for Constellation Work as an amazing method which has already made a difference in my life.

Constellation Work is an action method like psychodrama and is very similar in some ways -- yet very different. While it is rooted in the psychotherapeutic tradition, the method is distinguished from conventional psychotherapy in that the client hardly speaks and aim is to identify and release deep patterns embedded within the family system rather than to explore or process narrative, cognitive or emotional content.

Here’s a link from a lecture from Bert Hellinger on peace of mind, soul and love; there are many more lectures at his Web site.

And there's more. Science is now offering studies that back up this approach of the contention that experiences are inherited. Here is the link to the BBC documentary, “The Ghost In Your Genes,” that actually offers fascinating proof about inheritance beyond hair and eye color and height. There very short version of this video on You Tube but does not go into the good details. The BCC version is 48 minutes, so you'll want to link to it when you have some time. I think it’s excellently done and is completely fascinating.

You can find several examples of actual Constellation sessions on YouTube – just go to to the site and search for “Systemic Family Constellation Work.” Most of them are in another language but you can get the idea of how it looks. I'll be co-presenting with my colleague Ron Anderson on "Couples Work With Systemic Constellation Work" at the annual conference of the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama later this week in St. Louis, Mo. Watch for our handouts to be posted at another time.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Facebook, networking and psychodrama

Networking refers to the connections that you have to people in your professional and personal worlds. The larger your network, then the more opportunities that you will have to share your work and beliefs, talk about your businesses and practices and find referrals, resources, information and encouragement. (Actually, this is what Facebook is all about!)

In the world of psychodrama, there is a related field known as sociometry, which refers to the measurement of social connections in any given group. Knowledge of sociometric measurement and the ability to apply sociometric skills to expand your network will ease those times when you enter events such as mixers, open houses, club meetings, awards events and community functions where we know very few or no people.

Although these getting-to-know-you events are good ways of meeting new people and enlarging our circles of friends and colleagues, they also test our abilities to be creative and relaxed in situations where we may experience pressure, confusion or shyness. Many professionals work on carefully crafting a two-minute "elevator speech" — the mini-introduction that explains what they do in the time it takes an elevator to travel a few floors. Others avoid large crowds and prefer to do their networking one at a time over lunch, breakfast or a cup of coffee.

However, to make best use of special events, here are a few simple suggestions that are helpful and fit a large variety of situations:

Notice who you are drawn to. These connections are "telic" connections, relating to the "tele" that Dr. J.L. Moreno named as an invisible level of energy between people. Trust your instincts regarding what people you notice and who seems to catch your eye in the crowd. The way someone dresses, his or her level of energy, even the expression on his or her face may draw you to learn more about that person. You may not know why you are drawn to this person, but make time to learn what is attracting your attention.

Develop the role of the "interviewer." Identify a range of questions that are related to your business or occupation. Perhaps you are experiencing a small problem in your work; the networking event is an ideal time to seek out solutions or resources. Are you looking for a new long distance phone company? Trying to decide where to advertise? Or seeking good accountant, graphic designer or coach? Begin your question with, "Do you know someone who…" and this may help you meet more people — in addition to getting actual help in solving your problem.

Be creative and spontaneous. If you have the opportunity to introduce yourself to a lot or people, practice varying your "spiel" with each person so that you don't say the same thing twice. Your words will stay fresh, you will feel more energy and you may find new connections and topics to talk about — even among people whom you have met before. It is a good alternative to going on "remote control," which you will forget to listen to yourself.

Play the role of listener. Our energy ebbs and flows, and it's all right to take a break from talking to just listen, breathe and pause. If you notice a twosome or cluster of people talking with animation, stroll over to check out what's so interesting. Listen and ponder. You may be surprised to know what you can learn by listening.

Expand your repertoire of roles. You can also easily meet people by volunteering to fill a particular role or task for an organization or club where you are a member. The task — such as greeter, survey taker or chairperson of a committee —will give you specific reasons to meet new people while you are also making yourself valuable to the organization.

Oh, yes, Facebook. Facebook, like LinkedIn and the new Social Networking for Therapists, offers the opportunity to adapt these skills and build networks online. See this link for a group of psychodramatists and sociometrists who have joined Facebook and are creating a growing Global Sociometric Encounter.

This article is adapted from Karen's "Whole Person Marketing" e-book which offers friendly ideas on creative marketing for holistic professionals, including tips for brochures, press releases, contact with various media, mailing lists, Internet visibility, community presentations, health fairs, conferences, handouts, plus marketing and advertising resources. 90+ pages. Available in PDF format on CD for sale price of $15, with $5 extra for postage and handling. See Lake House Health & Learning Center to order and use this sale code: Blog0302.