Greetings, I am Sonya, also known as Makhosi Nyoni, a Transgenerational Practitioner and South African initiated Sangoma Healer. I integrate both Western and African therapeutic models into my Ancestral Constellations practice, a process for transforming negative generational patterns.
I often wonder how I became a substance misuse counsellor in my mid 20’s, after all, this was not a job that many young women with an African Caribbean background would choose. But after finishing a BSc in Social Science, I had developed a growing interest in mental health and spirituality and wanted to explore more, path that would lead me learning about traditional indigenous wisdom traditions.
So the drug misuse field was an ideal place to start as a counsellor. I worked for five years in drop-in centres and in-patient rehabs. And then during the HIV epidemic of the late 1980’s, I joined the leading charity for people impacted by HIV and AIDS, London Lighthouse. As a workshop trainer and learning consultant, I honed my skills as a facilitator working with groups and teams of all sizes.
In 1995 I completed an MSc in Human Resource development and then took a PG Diploma in Systemic Practice. I was an independent practitioner for several years, working with a range of organisations on diversity and inclusion initiatives. I then completed training as a Master NLP coach in 2003, designing the first Coaching Programme for the Social Services Directorate at Westminster Council. It ran for five years with over 150 employees completing the programme.
In the Wilderness
And then I went through a period of time when I felt lost and in the wilderness. The stress of organisational life was making me ill and the global financial crash of 2008 had an impact on my independent self employed practice. I decided to go back to my therapeutic and community roots! But when I looked at therapy courses, the Eurocentric dominated focus was a deterrent. I knew I wanted to explore and ‘other ways of knowing’ and continue to build on the knowledge that I had gained through my earlier studies, it meant accessing my cultural traditions at a deeper level.
In 2011 I started a PG Diploma in Mental Health Nursing and returned to systemic practice with a focus on Family Constellations. This deep dive, working on the wards of several London hospitals was a therapeutic training in severe mental illness and took me full circle back to my earlier career as a substance misuse counsellor. I realised that here was an opportunity to develop a different way of thinking about Black and Diaspora family and community transgenerational health and wellbeing. An approach integrating my facilitator, group work and coaching experience.
In 2016 I founded Ancestral Constellations as a therapeutic and healing practice with an African Centred focus. The aim was to create a model that would fill some of the gaps in Eurocentric counselling and therapy training. The approach has been devised as an applied process to work with generational trauma, family lineage, community traditions and the emotional health and wealth of Black families and communities of colour in the Western Diaspora. It is envisioned as a supplement to contemporary psychological thinking, not a replacement.
In 2016, I travelled to Burkina Faso, West Africa with the renowned Dagara Elder, diviner, and author Malidoma Some. In 2018 I went to Benin and Ghana to explore African healing practices. And in 2019, I visited South Africa to integrate my family constellations learning and explore Sangoma ancestral and family divination traditions.
These journeys to Africa and the Caribbean were a revelation. When I sit and remember the conversations that I had with people in my early career as a mental health worker, I can see that what we in the West deem mental Illness, would in other cultural or indigenous wisdom traditions be recognised as a healer emerging.
I have learnt, that in an African healing context many severe mental health episodes signal the entry of a healer into the world. In the village those with deep herbal learning, the diviners and the elders are the social workers, counsellors and therapists for families and the wider community. And this exists today in may cultural contexts.
My vision is to help those who want to RE-Member these older ‘ways of knowing’ and Re-connect ancestral beliefs. The applied practice of Ancestral Constellations aims to be a therapeutic way of supporting Diaspora communities. By making an intervention in patterns that continue down the generational, we can support the healing of relationships and create greater emotional health in family life.
What People Are Saying
Thanks for the powerful constellation session. I experienced the processing of big realisations that had been deeply subconscious up until then. Since the session, I am seeing a clearer pathway for future healing and feel a lightness, peace and clarity around my family and ancestral dynamics that I haven’t felt ever before.
The moment I walked into the room I felt the presence of something very powerful and spiritual occurring. The work was beginning in an unspoken way and continued with those willing to form their constellations. Wonderful to witness and be part of a process that led to a soulful and deeply moving moment.
Before I came I expected to simply get started on a journey of family dynamics and ancestry in simple ways. I found it energetically uplifting and a tangible shift on a deep level. It felt incredible to accept my ancestral emotional DNA and I got some insight into what to work on next. I am grateful to have attended.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can a constellation support me?
A personal constellation in a group setting can support you in finding out more about your family heritage, in order to reconnect with your cultural history and ancestral line. One of the ways of doing this is through ancestral constellation workshops.
Come to a workshop if there is an area of your family, community or work life where you feel stuck. Or if there is a problem that you are unable to resolve. The process aims to ‘restore love down the ancestral line’ by honouring the ancestors that came before you, as well as those in your current family and the wider community.
How does a personal consultation work?
A personal constellation in a small group setting begins with a conversation during which you and I will discuss what you want to explore or resolve. You will connect to your heart’s desire for the outcome of the session. You will identify what you want to explore and who to include in the constellations.
I will invite you to choose dollies, floor felts or other creative tools and resources to be ‘Representatives’ for your family members or issues. This choice is based on your intuition or ‘feeling’, or sometimes I will choose on your behalf. You will place the representatives within the cloth circle, in relation to each other.
What are 'Representatives?
In a larger group setting ‘representatives’ are chosen from other group members. The representatives stand in the position that you placed them in and they will start to sense feelings and emotions. They may have the desire to move or speak as they feel. This ‘living map’ of your family dynamics is explored further, with questions from the facilitator that reveal what the representatives are feeling.
The representative’s ability to attune to the feelings of others helps to surface ‘unknown dynamics’. When these become conscious, expressed and clarified, you can start to see the way forward. Sometimes more representatives are added to the constellation or taken out.
How can an Ancestral Constellations workshop help me?
A workshop can give you a new perspective on difficulties in interpersonal relationships and wider community issues. You can explore solutions to problems and look at how to resolve or reconcile relationship issues. The purpose is to build strong families for current and future generations.
‘Love’ is the healing force that can transform families and communities. This can be done through the Ancestral constellations process, working alongside healing ritual work. It provides a way to restore the ‘flow of love by looking at your family ‘just as it is’ within a constellation that shows the different parts of the family system.
What will I gain from the workshop?
You will explore a difficult situation by mapping a personal constellation or being a representative. You can identify where there are stuck patterns or relationship cycles that keep appearing through the generations. You will be able to look at your situation from different angles and then explore how you can disentangle or separate from difficult issues. With that comes more peace of mind and clarity.
When is it the right or wrong time to attend?
A workshop is right for you if you are open, curious and willing to look at your family history in a new way. There may be an area of your family, community or work life where you feel stuck. Or perhaps you have an intractable problem in a relationship that you would love to resolve, but can’t find a way to.
Constellations are a therapeutic way of working and may bring up strong emotions and feelings. It may not be the right time to attend if you are in a very vulnerable stage of your life, if you are feeling very depressed, or have had a recent physical or mental health issue.
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