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What Is the Purpose of a Genogram?

by
author image Thom Mote
Thom Mote began writing professionally in 2008 and his work appears on various websites. As a counselor in private practice, Mote has been providing workshops on mental health since 1996. He has a Bachelor of Science in psychology and a Master of Education in counseling from the University of Tennessee.
What Is the Purpose of a Genogram?
Close-up of a therpist using a clipboard in couples therapy. Photo Credit KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images

A genogram is a multi-generational diagram of a person’s family and social network. It allows users to view multiple relationship dynamics, review developmental influence and identify trends. Each person on a genogram is represented by a symbol. The symbols are then linked with lines to depict various dynamics and significant individual qualities. Genograms are used by professionals in many fields which study and work with people including doctors, researchers, psychiatrists, counselors and psychologists.

Research

Medical and behavioral researchers use the results of multiple genograms to identify recurring patterns. Interviewing individuals from different generations and coding the information provides clues to possible causal or correlation elements, such as genetics or generational learning. Genograms may also be used to study how factors such as the environment or socio-economic status influence personal or family development and functioning.

Personal Risk Assessment

Medical professionals use genograms to assist individuals in identifying medical risk factors. For example, an extensive family history of heart disease or diabetes may indicate a predisposition for these diseases, thus assisting the individual in making wise lifestyle choices.

Individual Counseling

Psychologists and other mental health professionals use genograms to assist individuals in therapy. Genograms assess the current support networks, the influences on personal development and interpersonal relationships which need improvement. Information obtained by creating a genogram can also be used in treatment planning by targeting undeveloped, underdeveloped or unhealthy relationships.

Couples Counseling

In couples counseling, genograms can assist a couple in developing insights into the extraneous influences on the couple’s relationship. Separate and distinct developmental issues of one member of the couple arising from family history are also assessed. Genograms are used in pre-marital counseling to identify possible conflicts, and resources. Couples also benefit from exploring areas of compatibility and possible conflict which a genogram can reveal.

Family Therapy

In family therapy, genograms can be used not only to assess the family’s current dynamics, but also to track progression as the family brings about needed change. Individual members can also explore personality development within the context of the family--with immediate feedback. Generational patterns such as addictions, abuse and personalities are also explored within a context of family development.

Substance Abuse Counseling

Substance abuse counselors use genograms as part of assessment and for tracking progress. A genogram can help the client identify current relationships which act as triggers or support active use. They can also be used to identify and create new relationships which can act as supports in maintaining abstinence and constructive social interactions.

School Counseling

School guidance counselors use genograms as part of a developmentally-focused career education. The goal is to assist the student in career selection and personal development through the integration of information obtained from the genogram. For example, relationships which support the student’s personal, educational and career developmental goals can be developed or expanded upon.

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