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How to Make a Genogram

Edited by Carolyn Barratt, Emma, Flickety, Zareen and 2 others A genogram is a family map or history that uses special symbols to describe relationships, major events, and the dynamics of a family over multiple generations !ental health and medical professionals often use genograms to identify patterns of mental and physical illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, cancer and other genetic diseases "o begin a genogram you #ill need to intervie# family members first "hen, you can use standard genogram symbols to create a diagram that documents your family$s speciali%ed history



& Determine your reason for creating a genogram. "he purpose #ill help you to focus on the type of family information you #ant to collect 't$s also liable to help you decide #ith #hom you #ill share the completed diagram((sometimes the information might be considered upsetting or too sensitive for some family members, so you$ll need to judge that depending on the conte)t
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*enograms can focus on a number of issues including substance abuse, mental illness, and physical violence, as #ell as many physical illnesses *enograms can provide health care #orkers #ith a visual document that tracks the history of your current mental or medical problem through your family bloodline

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Decide how many generations you'd like to represent in your genogram. "his #ill give you a clear idea of #ho you #ill need to approach for information to complete your diagram and #hether this #ill be possible given people$s ages and geographical distribution

+on$t forget that you can use email, ,kype and other communications devices to get in touch #ith far-flung family members even if you can$t afford to.don$t #ant to travel to talk to them in person

/ / Research your family history. 0rite do#n everything you kno# first 0hen you$ve e)ceeded your o#n kno#ledge, talk to family members Ask 1uestions about family relationships and significant events "ake good notes

Be mindful that these discussions may be difficult for some family members

Be prepared to listen to lots of stories ,tories are the best means by #hich #e remember and transfer information((encourage these as they arise by listening attentively and asking open-ended 1uestions that motivate the person to share more information 2ou may also be able to find information through #eb searches or family books 3o#ever, you should be sure that this information is accurate if you decide to use it, #hich means you may need to cross-check it directly #ith living persons

4 4 Design your genogram. *enogram templates are available that can be completed online or filled out by hand 2ou can also purchase soft#are programs designed specifically for creating genograms

5 5 Use standard genogram symbols to represent family members and their relationships both normal and dysfunctional. "he symbols act as a visual indicator of the information you gathered in your intervie#s 2ou can dra# the standard genogram symbols by hand or by using the 6dra#6 or 6shapes6 options in a #ord processing program
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!ales are indicated by a s1uare 0hen indicating a marriage, position the male symbol to the left 0omen are indicated by a circle 0hen indicating a marriage, position the female symbol to the right A single hori%ontal line indicates marriage and t#o slanted lines separation "he oldest child is al#ays belo# and to the left of his family, #hereas the youngest should be belo# and to the right 7ther available symbols help you describe family events such as pregnancy or miscarriage, illnesses and deaths "here is even a diamond symbol to represent pets

8 8 !rgani"e the chart based on family interactions beginning with the oldest generation you want to represent. For e)ample, you may decide to start your genogram #ith your grandparents or even your great grandparents *enograms can be used to sho# the diversity in family relationships as #ell as patterns of illnesses

A genogram includes symbols to indicate family interactions such as conflict, closeness, estrangement, etc Emotional relationships have specific symbols that help keep the flo# of the genogram clear

"here are also symbols that denote se)ual and physical abuse as #ell as mental and physical disorders

9 #ook for patterns. 7nce you$ve made the genogram, look carefully to see #hat patterns can be identified "here may be hereditary patterns or particular psychological tendencies that are very noticeable #hen grouped together in this #ay
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Be careful about making assumptions "he data is one thing but avoid using it to confirm that your family has a particular disease issue "alk to a medical professional about any potential for hereditary problems of this type Avoid using the genogram to make assumptions about the motivations of family members, or using this to confront them 0hile you might find a tendency for :ncle Fred to 1uit every job he has ever had and cousin !illie has al#ays seemed to steal other people$s boyfriends, it$s not a good idea to #ave the genogram in front of their faces to 6prove6 your point that they need psychoanalysis Be very careful to avoid approaching your family members in a judgmental #ay as a result of making a genogram; talk to your family or personal counselor before proceeding to reach conclusions from a self-generated genogram 'f you$re #riting up the family history, patterns established in a genogram can be very helpful as a #ay of e)plaining #hy ancestral family members left one geographical area for another, #hat sorts of relationship issues they had and may help to unearth family members #ho #ere not officially recogni%ed