Family Constellations v Identity Constellations

What’s the difference?

An Identity Constellations workshop may at first appear very similar to Family Constellations, with a client, facilitator and representatives working together in circle, moving and conversing as they feel into what is present. However there are many key differences in the two approaches.

Franz RuppertProfessor Franz Ruppert, who devised the IoPT*/Identity Constellations process, worked with Burt Hellinger for many years, and was originally a Family Constellations facilitator. As a Psychotherapist and Psychology Professor in Munich, he became aware that bonding and attachment traumas underpin all later relational issues, yet often remain hidden, and also have great potential for re-traumatisation.

Here’s an outline of the key differences between the approaches, as I understand them:

  • In Identity Constellations we work with parts of the client’s own Self or Psyche – as opposed to external parts of the family or other system.
  • The vital point of reference for the client’s healing and change lies inside the Self, not with people outside the client.
  • When a part/representative appears to be the client’s mother or father, we work with this as an internalised aspect, i.e. something of that parent being carried within the client.
  • We work with a Sentence of Intention. This means the client creates a sentence about the issue they want to explore, eg “I want to be free of shame” or “Why can’t I stop shouting at my kids”. This is written up and representatives are asked to resonate into words – not by interpreting meaning, but simply by reporting on what they feel, physically or emotionally, in the moment.
  • The client gives little or no biographical story in advance.
  • Constant awareness of bonding/attachment and relational trauma theories underpin every constellation, both in meaning and process.
  • The client takes part in their own Constellation, rather than being an observer as is often the case in Family Constellations.
  • The client is in charge of the process, supported by the facilitator. The facilitator does not give directions or words to speak.

For deeper reading I highly recommend the books by Franz Ruppert (in particular Trauma, Fear & Love).

Vivian Broughton, who runs the UK’s IoPT training has also written a helpful introductory book, and her blog has many excellent articles. Her website also has a list of other practitioners offering this amazing work in the UK.

*Identity-Oriented PsychoTraumatology

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