What Is a Reconstruction?

Reconstruction is an experiential telling and retelling of a life story done primarily in a group setting that impacts all the people present.

Virginia Satir, a humanistic family systems therapist, author and teacher invented the term Family Reconstruction. She is considered one of the top one hundred women of the twentieth century. She did so much, but she always worked from a wellness model rather than a diagnostic one. She believed all people were capable of change and growth.

Satir Classic Family reconstruction:


Chronology beginning with the birth of the oldest grandparent through the star’s adolescence, a Family tree and a wheel of influence.

The star met with Virginia 3 times to form a bond of trust.

The reconstruction could last from 6 hours to 3 days and was done with a group of 15 to 200 participants.


Sculpture ,sociometry , role-play, teaching, Reframin, Family Rules, forgivness 

Sharon Cruse, came from the field of addiction in early treatment days at the Johnson Institute. She specialized in the needs of the families of alcohol. She was Virginia’s protege and friend. She believed more dysfunctional families created more need for healing. She added more emotional work, props and music.

Sharon’s Classic Reconstruction:


Chronology from birth to current time for the star 

Life story told in a workbook “Understanding Me” Descriptions of all family members 

Family tree including patterns of disfunction An interview with the star lasting about 6 hours

A classic Cruse reconstruction lasted from 10-14 hours

Modalities in addition to Satir’s:

Interpersonal relationships ,A Support System called Family of Choice , Current family picture ,Family Roles ,Fun and happy family times, Celebrations of overcoming or successes, Deeper emotional expression ,The disease model and progression of the disease. It had lessgenerational work but it was always included ,Aftercare 

Other forms ,and there are many, include:

Mini reconstructions on one time period or theme. 

Reconstructions combined with other modalities 21/2 day reconstruction workshop 

Reconstructions done without a retreat setting 

Groups doing the prep work for reconstruction and experiential therapy in interagency groups

Most others reflect the interests and strengths of the guide All forms of reconstruction have in common these strengths:
But most methods have these strengths:

Looking at one’s life with adult eyes.

A chance to grieve and have all the feelings repressed in childhood.

The ability to put the past behind.

Accumulative work.

The progression of patterns and themes are possible to develop over time.

Context, both historical, familial and cultural can be presented. Shame reduction and self esteem building always happen. Forgiveness and the understanding to see parents as people instead of their role.

Decision making.