I live in Cape Town, on the False Bay coast, between mountain and sea. I walk on the mountain, smell the sea and feel the wind nearly every day.
The other supports for the work that I do comes from the last 20 or so years of experience working with self and other in different settings. Here are a few that flow into and enrich my constellation work.
Background and journey into family constellations
Hospice : In 1990 did a one-year counselling course with Johannesburg Hospice. Here I worked as a volunteer counsellor with bereavement clients and terminally ill patients until1993.
TCM : In my bodywork practice (1998-2014) which is rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine, there was always an ‘informal’ counselling component embedded in the session (an individual is always seen in TCM, within the context of their life, never as one standing alone – a truly systemic view of self and other in the world).
ComaCare : 2006 – 2009, overlapping part of the second year of my Family Constellations Foundation training, I worked as a counsellor for ComaCare. This is an organisation based then at Groote Schuur hospital in Cape Town, which works with coma patients in varying states of altered consciousness. We first worked in the Neurological High Care ward, and later were allowed into ICU. I also worked with the families of the patients whenever possible.
The 3 levels of training that I did with Jan Webster at ComaCare were based on Amy and Arnold Mindells’ Process oriented coma and near-death work (a close parallel to constellation work).
The 17 years working as a body therapist has held, overlapped, fed into and informed my family constellations work. Systemic Constellation Work (SCW) is experiential and body-based; lived history is stored in the body, and new information is accessed by the body (and the 5 more traditionally known sense organs). The widening and deepening of a body awareness more easily enables a process of embodiment. This in turn enables access to the somatic history stored in the body.
Those years of bodywork ‘prepared’ me for my first experience of family constellations in 2002. Since then I have immersed myself in this way of working. It is the main tool that I use now working with individuals and with groups.
A serendipitous stumble
Towards the end of 2002 I stumbled across news of a family constellations workshop being held in Cape Town. It sounded like a role playing type exploration of one’s family. I groaned inwardly as I read the faxed invitation; I felt that I needed a break from dealing with me and my family. The reason that I decided to book myself a place, was because the friend who had brought me the flyer was so excited about what she had already experienced. There was obviously something different here.
I went to that workshop and before the first constellation was even half way through I knew that I was going to use this tool in my work, that in fact it was exactly what I had been looking for. This was the way in which I was going to work with another.
And this is now what I do. I facilitate Family Constellations workshops and also run a practice offering one-on-one family constellations sessions. Between that workshop in 2002 and today in 2014 I have attended many hours of open workshops, have done a basic 2 year training and continue to attended advanced family constellations and systemic training workshops regularly. This rich and exciting journey continues for me.
Profound and far reaching change
And I remain committed to this work because of the profound change that it can help facilitate. It is a modality that lays bare the interconnectedness of us, within our family, within our work setting, within our community. Each piece of work that is done with either individual or group or organisation has a reach far beyond the one person who is worked with.
My wish is to continue spreading the constellation work out into many more settings. Particularly into organisational and institutional settings: schools, prisons, local government. These are the settings where the insights and shifts that occur in a constellation session can feed policy and decision-making which in turn allow all belonging to a system to share in a more balanced functioning.
Experience and formal training
My core training was done through Family Constellations Africa. The initiation of the training here in South Africa came primarily from Ursula Franke. Ursula was invited to South Africa by a Gestalt therapist, Beulah Levinson to facilitate Family Constellations workshops, one of a series in 2002 in South Africa.
Ursula in turn encouraged her German Family Constellations colleagues to visit South Africa to facilitate open workshops during 2003 and 2004, which I organized in Cape Town. And then in 2005, Ursula together with Svenja Wachter and Tanja Meyburgh created Family Constellations Africa to hold and run the first formal 2 year South African training.
The trainers in that first South African training were Dr Ursula Franke; Dr Frank Gallenmüller; Dr Guni Baxa; Stephan Hausner and Johannes Schimdt.
Before that training, during and after I have continued attending open workshops and other trainings. The most important of these trainings, in terms of exposure to facilitators who worked with Bert Hellinger in the early days of the development of family constellations work, has been the annual week long International Intensive Workshop on Systemic Resolutions, held at Bernried, in Germany. Here a participant experiences this work in its many forms and styles, with a faculty of first and second generation trainers.
Image: Suzy Bernstein