Ancestral Constellations for Communities of colour
In this short article, my key focus is on what the systemic constellations method has to offer a Black and Caribbean client group who often find it difficult to find therapy or counselling that meets their needs. As a synthesis of Western systemic theory and African Indigenous family structures, I believe that this transgenerational approach is of value as a cultural resource.
As I started working with the constellations method with clients, I became much clearer. I noticed the inclusion of principles in the method that spoke to the African Caribbean experience and I saw the relevance of the embedded indigenous spiritual wisdom, when working with black families and those of African heritage.
It can support those who want a step into a therapeutic space to explore family and community issues, without committing to long term therapy. And the approach can be adapted to more closely meet the needs of African heritage families when viewed as a ‘healing ritual with a therapeutic edge’.
3 Key Elements that Make a Difference
The Ancestral Constellations approach that makes it particularly appropriate for people from an African heritage or community of colour, is in my view three key elements:
- A focus on the Diaspora experience of Black people and communities of colour
- Exploration of the ancestral trauma as a residue of slavery and colonialism
- Integrating indigenous healing wisdom into euro centred therapeutic practise
My personal and professional experience, is that often the black family and the community that they are a part of are indivisible. So a constellation, that maps out a family structure resonant with other aspects of community life, country of origin, country of immigration, land of a forefather, place of birth are relevant and important aspects of the work.
In the African and Caribbean community, church can often be the place to find support and solace and the extended family, those of blood and otherwise often play an important part in socialising children. So the action of placing people and abstract concepts can be an important part of the process.
A Brief Therapeutic Practice
I see my approach to constellations work as a kind of walk-in to a therapeutic experience. It can act as a snap-shot, a moment to explore and go deep, a way of reflecting on something deep and troubling, without an ongoing commitment.
In a way it can be seen as a brief therapy. The traditional counselling method doesn’t work for all people. There are financial factors, issues of building trust in the relationship and often a lengthy time commitment, thats not for everyone.
And there are questions about a european model and its application for people of different cultures. 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 have surfaced over many generations.
Patterns of Behaviour Over Generations
When I came to transgenerational work, this became so much clearer. Family constellations looks at patterns of behaviours and relationships over generations, sometimes 3-4 and further back. Lennox Thomas in a paper that he presented to AFT conference this summer spoke eloquently about the trauma impact of slavery over three hundred years. He suggests that ‘African Caribbean’s are often advised to forget about slavery, ‘it happened so long ago, what is its relevance now.
He goes on to talk about slits and separations in the family and from my personal family experience and those of many of the clients who come to my workshops, you do indeed see many of the same patterns….what are they, Quotes from Lennox Thomas etc
Another thing that is important is the issues of the individual and the family. Often therapy focuses on the individual in the family, my sense is that for many Caribbean’s the issue is more of the family in the wider community. Many families are headed by women, and this is a historical legacy of slavery and the division of families as a result.