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What is Family Constellations Therapy?

About two months ago I went along to an all-day family constellations group therapy session. I went in curious and came out baffled. Therapeutic practices that speak of energy shifts and healing as if they were as mundane as tea and coffee raise my scepticism but as a therapist and believer in personal growth, I thought it would be worth my while to see how other therapists operate in their areas of expertise. The phrase ‘family constellations’ has crossed my path a couple of times over the course of the last couple of years – and I had confused it with the idea of family systems and dynamics generally – but now I have come to understand that at its core is the assumption that every person is part of a family and that every family has endured suffering or entanglement. The pain caused in previous generations can be accessed and alleviated by family constellations counselling which involves a group of unrelated people taking it in turns to ask a question about themselves and asking the other members of the group to represent key members of their family. Such was my confusion, that before I did the workshop I thought it would involve working with an actual family but it is more like this: A group of seven (number variable) […]

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Art Therapy

Last month I was invited to an art therapy workshop in The Hague given by Susanne Kingdon-Nielsen. As both a therapist and someone whose drawing ability drew to a halt at the age of six, I wanted to know how counsellors go about getting clients to use their artistic talents. Susanne gave us three exercises to do, reiterating that people learn better by doing than by being told what to do. She insisted that she wasn’t going to judge us on style or technique. The first task was to draw five must-have items to take on holiday. Apprehensive, I went about choosing coloured pencils and thinking about what to draw. Afterwards each of us was encouraged to say what we had drawn and why. The information that emerged was pertinent and personal; it was immediately clear that this sort of exercise would work with clients who are reluctant to make direct reference to their issues. Explaining our holiday priorities proved a good way of learning about each others’ personalities. The second activity was done in pairs and involved a bit of collaboration. Using crayons, both partners had to draw the same shape – a large kidney bean – overlapping onto the other person’s half of the shared paper. We went repeatedly over the outline with a variety of colours in […]

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“Everything has been figured out, except how to live.” – Jean-Paul Sartre

This quote struck a chord during my training to become a therapist and coach. I was working with my first few clients, mainly expats, and it hit home that none of us has sussed out the best way to live. As adults, doubt and insecurity gnaw at our ideals and perhaps the more freedom of choice we have, the more paralysed we become for fear of taking a wrong turn. As kids we unconsciously pick up lots of ideas at home and at school. These ideas meld to form an approximate lifestyle template. While parents are our main role models and have blanket influence on our child selves, they don’t necessarily know or pass on the best way to live. They live life their way and right, wrong or indifferent, it sticks to us as we stick to it. Unfortunately, adhering to a life model that is custom-made for or by someone else, whoever they may be, doesn’t fit or suit a separate person. It can take a lifetime to shake off a parent’s voice, belief system or habits and become your own person. If you’re not satisfied with how your parents raised you, remembering that they are flawed human beings like the rest of us will yield a better chance of you living well than blaming them forever. In […]