How to Make a Genogram | Genogram Tutorial

Updated on: 18 July 2023 | 8 min read
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Whether you’re a therapist, counselor, social worker, or healthcare professional, understanding genograms can greatly boost your ability to comprehend and analyze family dynamics. With this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about genograms, from what they are, how to create them, to how to understand what they mean.

What is a Genogram

A genogram is a visual tool that allows you to visually map out and explore the intricate relationships, patterns, and influences within a family system. Unlike a standard family tree, a genogram includes additional information such as medical history, emotional relationships, and social interactions.

By examining the interplay of genetics, behaviors, and social factors across multiple generations, genograms provide valuable insights into a person’s background, emotional health, and overall well-being.

History of Genograms

Genograms were introduced in the 1970s by Monica McGoldrick and Randy Gerson as a visual tool for understanding families. McGoldrick and Gerson expanded on the concept of family trees by including additional information such as emotional relationships, behavioral patterns, and significant life events. This allowed them to explore the interconnectedness of family members and identify influential factors that shape individual experiences.

Since then, genograms have become widely used in fields like psychology, social work, healthcare, and research. They help professionals assess patterns across generations, uncover hidden influences, and identify systemic issues.

Nowadays, there are genogram software and digital tools available to make creating and sharing genograms easier. They remain an important part of therapy, family assessments, and research.

When to Use Genograms

Genograms can be used in various situations to gain a deeper understanding of family dynamics and relationships.

  • Therapy and counseling: As a diagnostic tool in client counseling, genogram help to explore family patterns, unresolved issues, and better understand the clients' emotional well-being.

  • Medical and healthcare settings: To gain insight into patients' health history, genetic predispositions, and potential risk factors to make more informed diagnosis and treatment decisions.

  • Social work and family services: In social work genograms are used to guide interventions and develop effective strategies to address family issues.

  • Research: To study family systems, hereditary traits, and the impact of relationships on individual well-being.

  • Education: In education, genograms help students understand their own backgrounds and promote self-reflection.

  • Personal growth and self-reflection: It can be a helpful tool for personal growth, understanding relationships, and exploring the impact of one’s upbringing.

Different Types of Genograms

There are various types of genograms that can be used to explore different aspects of a person’s family dynamics. Here are some common types:

  • Standard or family genogram: This is the most common type of genogram, which includes basic information about family members such as names, dates of birth, and relationships.

  • Medical genogram: Focuses on health-related information, such as illnesses and genetic factors that run in the family.

  • Emotional genogram: Emphasizes the emotional relationships, communication styles, and behavior patterns within the family.

  • Cultural genogram: Explores the cultural and ethnic background of the family, including traditions and values.

  • Career genogram: A career genogram is a specialized type of genogram that focuses on mapping and exploring the career paths, achievements, and influences within a person’s family.

Genogram Symbols

It’s important to note that genogram symbols can vary slightly depending on the conventions used by different professionals or cultural contexts. When creating or interpreting a genogram, provide clear explanations and use key symbols consistently for better understanding and communication. Here are some common genogram symbols and their meanings:

Basic Genogram Symbols Basic Genogram Symbols

Family Relationships Family Relationships

Medical Genogram Symbols Medical Genogram Symbols

Medical Genogram Symbols - Colored Medical Genogram Symbols - Colored

How to Make a Genogram

Making a genogram is a relatively straightforward process. Here are the basic steps to create a genogram:

Gather information:

Collect relevant information about your family members, including names, dates of birth, and any additional details you want to include, such as medical conditions or significant life events.

  • Creately tip: Use sticky notes and the integrated notes panel to write down information. Or directly drag and drop images and screenshots or attach relevant documents to each shape.

Choose symbols:

Familiarize yourself with genogram symbols and decide which ones to use for different family members and relationships.

  • Creately tip: Creately includes genogram symbols to depict gender, family relationships and emotional relationships. With these you can create family genograms, relationship genograms, emotional genograms, and more. You can also browse for more symbols using the in-app Google image search or drag and drop them from your own device.

Draw the genogram:

Start with yourself and draw a square or circle to represent your gender. Connect yourself to your parents and siblings with vertical lines. Add your grandparents by drawing horizontal lines connecting them to your parents. Continue this process to represent multiple generations.

  • Creately tip: Use Plus Create to quickly add the next shape and the connector to speed things up. Use the Quick Toolbar to switch between symbols and connectors. You can then use the preset color themes to quickly customize your genogram.

Include additional details:

Use symbols and lines to indicate relationships, marriages, divorces, separations, children, and any other significant information.

  • Creately tip: Use the integrated notes panel and additional data fields for each shape to add and store more information on each family member.

Add labels:

Label each family member with their name and any necessary details, such as birth and death dates. This helps in understanding the genogram more easily.

Indicate connections:

Use lines to show connections between family members, indicating the nature of the relationship.

Interpret and analyze:

Once your genogram is complete, take the time to study and analyze the relationships, patterns, and influences represented. Look for recurring themes, intergenerational patterns, and potential factors impacting family dynamics.

  • Creately tip: Quickly share the genogram you created with others by adding them as collaborators with edit or view access. Collect their feedback via comments and track the changes they make with live mouse tracking and synced previews.

Tips and Best Practices for Creating Genograms

Gather accurate information: Make sure that you have accurate and up-to-date information about family members. Double-check names, dates of birth, and other relevant details to ensure the genogram is as accurate as possible.

  • Maintain confidentiality: Genograms contain personal and sensitive information about individuals and their families. It is crucial to maintain confidentiality and use genograms only in appropriate professional settings, adhering to ethical guidelines and privacy regulations.

  • Create a safe and supportive environment: When discussing genograms with clients or patients, create a safe and supportive environment for them to share their family history and experiences. Encourage open communication and active listening to create a deeper understanding.

  • Consider cultural sensitivity: Be aware of cultural considerations and sensitivities when creating and interpreting genograms. Different cultures may have unique symbols, values, or expectations related to family dynamics. Respect and honor diverse perspectives and practices.

  • Encourage collaboration: Involve clients or patients in the process of creating genograms. Encourage them to share their insights, interpretations, and perspectives about their family relationships and patterns. This collaboration helps build a sense of ownership and empowerment.

  • Use genograms as a starting point: Genograms provide a snapshot of family dynamics, but they are not the entire story. Use them as a starting point for exploration and understanding. Combine genogram information with other assessment tools, therapeutic techniques, and interventions to develop a comprehensive understanding of the individual and their family system.

  • Maintain neatness and organization: Create a clean and organized genogram by using straight lines, spacing symbols appropriately, and labeling family members clearly. This enhances readability and makes it easier to interpret the genogram.

Genogram Examples and Templates

Family Genogram Template

Family Genogram TemplateEdit this Template
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Family Genogram Template

Career Genogram

Career GenogramEdit this Template
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Career Genogram Template

FAQs

What are the advantages and disadvantages of genograms?

Advantages of Genograms:

  1. Visual representation of family relationships and dynamics.
  2. Comprehensive information including medical history and social factors.
  3. Identification of patterns and influences.
  4. Holistic assessment within the family context.
  5. Aid in targeted intervention planning.

Disadvantages of Genograms:

  1. Limited scope, focusing mainly on family dynamics.
  2. Interpretation challenges and the risk of making assumptions.
  3. Dependence on accurate and complete information.
  4. Potential emotional impact on individuals and families.
  5. Cultural considerations and the need for sensitivity.

It’s important to be aware of both the advantages and disadvantages of genograms to use them effectively while considering their limitations and potential impact.

Who can use genograms?
Genograms can be used by therapists, counselors, social workers, and medical professionals to better understand a client’s background and identify patterns or issues that may affect their well-being. Genetic counselors use genograms to assess the risk of inherited conditions. Researchers study genograms to explore family dynamics and genetic traits. Even individuals and families can use genograms for self-reflection.

Author

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Amanda Athuraliya Communications Specialist

Amanda Athuraliya is the communication specialist/content writer at Creately, online diagramming and collaboration tool. She is an avid reader, a budding writer and a passionate researcher who loves to write about all kinds of topics.

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