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Subproject C11

Rituals in Systems: On the Dynamics of Family and Organizational Constellations

Department and Research Field: Medicinal Psychology

Subproject Management

Prof. Dr. Jochen Schweitzer

Institute of Medicinal Psychology
Department of Medicinal Organizational Psychology
Bergheimer Str. 20
69115 Heidelberg
Phone: +49 – (0) 6221 – 56 81 52
Fax: +49 – (0) 6221 – 56 53 03


Dr. Dipl.-Psych. Annette Bornhäuser

Dr. Dipl.-Psych. Jan Weinhold

Dipl.-Psych. MSc Christina Hunger

Project Program

Subproject C11 researches family and organizational constellations as a sphere of activity located in the traditional conservative ethics of post-modern society. Constellations are therapeutic and consultative interventions using representatives to visualize interpersonal relations in a spatial and symbolic arrangement. The repositioning of these representatives as well as the use of ritual speech acts transforms the initial arrangement into a visible positive solution. The underlying logic of these constellations follows postulated “rules” that supposedly apply to all social systems.

Subproject C11 strives to gain insights into the structural dynamics and the effectiveness of constellations, the experiential modalities of their actors as well as the controversial discourses on theory and practice of this method. With the help of methodologically integrative means, this study investigates the ritual dynamics of family and organizational constellations on a psychological, social and cultural level. We will determine the connection between the constellations' structure/grammar and the participants’ experiential dimensions. We will describe and typify the different levels of ritualization in the constellations and analyze their significance to the participants’ experiential dimensions. The possibility to vary the design of the individual constellations allows a quasi-experimental research approach – a rare opportunity in Ritual Studies.

In the second part of the study, we will use a pre-post-design to analyze the effectiveness of constellations in their respective system (30 families and 30 organizations). Our research design integrates psychological methods as well as methods from cultural studies, such as participatory observation, videography, qualitative interviews and quantitative psychometric tests. Based on our observations in family and organizational constellations, we will converge and integrate models of ritual dynamics and system theory to form a theory and to explain changes in social systems.

Main Topics

Contrastive description of ritualizations in family and organizational constellations.

Connection between the structure of constellations and experiential dynamics.

Effectiveness of ritual therapy and consulting methods in postmodern times.
Investigation of the intercultural aspects of healing rituals.