There is a perception that black people don’t want to go to therapy or counselling. It is true that they go in smaller numbers. And it is also true that many therapeutic interventions are not culturally relevant, so people turn to the church, or an elder to support them through family difficulties.
And as a community, we worry about ‘washing our dirty linen in public’ or are concerned about what other people think of us’. Often the impetus for a person to do something about their ‘life-issues happens when there is a family or community crisis.
An Africentred Perspective
I see my approach to constellations work as a kind of ‘walk-into African centred therapy’. A constellations consultation can act as a snapshot, a moment to explore and dive deep, a way of reflecting on something profound and troubling, without an ongoing commitment. In a way, it can be seen as a brief therapy session.
The traditional counselling method doesn’t work for all people. There are financial factors, issues of building trust in the relationship and often a long-time commitment, that’s not for everyone. And there are questions about a European model and its application for people of different cultures.
Dipping in and Out
I have dipped in and out of therapy over my lifetime. Sometimes it has lasted for 6 months and at other times over two years. It took me a long time to realise that my issues, ‘weren’t just going to go away,’ I had to learn that therapy, for me at least was about living with some of the deeper traumas that are part of my life and the preceding generations.
When I started learning family constellations this all became so much clearer. It is transgenerational work, that looks at patterns of behaviours and relationships over three or four generations and sometimes even further back.
An African Centred Healing Ritual
I view my approach to constellations as a healing ritual, a form of African therapeutic work if you will. Our workshops can be seen as a community coming together in a ‘sacred space’. My own perspective is that family constellations as a healing ritual can also be adapted to form a therapeutic approach that is more ancestral centred and connects us to our historical roots.
In the Ancestral Constellations approach, the notion of ancestors is important and something that connects the past to the present. We create this through the use of flowers, water, incense and representatives for the ancestors in the form of ‘elder’ dollies. This represents those from the past that are connected to us in the present. It is not elaborate, it does not have to be named, it is just there beside us as we do the work.
Rites of Passage
A consultation can also be viewed as a ‘rite of passage’, by this I mean, a transition, something that occurs during a ritual healing session. It doesn’t always mean that an issue is fully resolved, rather a consultation helps support a movement of energetic shift and change. For these reasons, my approach is increasingly to frame the work as an Africentred indigenous counselling approach.
In many cultures around the world, the ritual is a part of everyday life. When there are births or deaths, the whole community is involved and plays a part. Ancestral Constellations can be viewed as a therapeutic approach, with a healing edge that focuses on mapping the family as part of wider community networks.
The aim of a constellations consultation is to discover the diagnosis of the presenting problem. This may result in more constellations session or other therapeutic approaches to supplement the consultation may be appropriate. Either way, it is a first step and an entry point into the family tree and ancestral lineage that may be supportive for many people who do not choose to engage with other therapeutic models.
Maybe that’s enough for now!
Until next time