Bert Hellinger (born in 1925 as Anton Hellinger) is a German psychotherapist who is best known for his Family Constellations and Systemic Constellations technique. Recently, Hellinger calls his technique as “Movements of the Spirit-Mind".
The young Hellinger at the age of 10 left home to attend a Catholic monastery and he was later sent as a missionary to South Africa. The local Hitler Youth Organization was not successful in recruiting Hellinger; and he was then conscripted into the German army. In 1945, he was imprisoned in a Prisoner of War camp in Belgium but was able to escape and return to Germany. He then entered the Jesuits and took the religious name, “Suitbert.” After being ordained as a priest, he was again sent to South Africa where he lived for the next 16 years. He took up various roles such as being a parish priest, teacher, and headmaster.
However, his vows as priest began to crumble when he joined interracial group dynamics trainings conducted by the Anglican clergy. This also marked his interest in phenomenology, especially when a trainer asked, “What is more important to you, your ideals or people? Which would you sacrifice for the other?” Hellinger connected this question with how the Nazis sacrificed lives for ideals. He then returned to Germany and trained in psychoanalysis; after which, he went to the United States and was trained by Arthur Janov, an American psychotherapist and writer. He was also influenced by Eric Berne, a Canadian-born psychotherapist who developed Transactional Analysis. Hellinger published more than 90 books, delivered lectures and workshops in various countries, and, together with his wife, run the Hellinger school.