Chapter 2: Using Genograms to Understand Family Systems


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  • More About Genograms by Monica McGoldrick Over the past few decades use of the genogram as a practical tool for mapping family patterns has become more and more widespread among health-care professionals. As genograms have become widely used in the fields of medicine, psychology, social work, and the other health care, human service, and even legal fields, I wrote, originally with Randy Gerson, Genograms: Assessment and Intervention, a practical guide to genograms, now in its second edition and published by W. W. Norton, to illustrate more fully the growing diversity of family forms and patterns in our society and the applications of genograms in clinical practice. The genogram is still a tool in progress. Based on feedback from those who read the book and use genograms in their work as well as other developments in the field, the symbols have been evolved since the first edition appeared in 1985, which reflected a standardization developed by the North American Primary Care Research Group in collaboration with leading family therapists. We hope that evolution of the genogram as a tool will continue as clinicians use genograms to track the complexity of family process. While a genogram can provide a fascinating view into the richness of a family's dynamics for those in the know, it may remain a collection of meaningless squares and circles on a page to those who don't know the players in the drama. Our solution to this dilemma has been to illustrate the theory of genograms primarily with famous families about whom we all have some knowledge, rather than clinical cases. We are family therapists, not historians, and thus the information we have been able to glean about these famous families is limited. Most of the sources have been newspapers, magazines and biographies. Many readers may know more about some of the families than we were able to uncover from published sources. We will from time to time be putting the genograms of various famous families on the website. We trust that future biographers will be more aware of family systems and use genograms to broaden their perspective on the individuals and families they describe. We welcome any information from readers about the people we have included- especially from those more expert at gathering genealogical and other information about these people. We apologize in advance for any inaccuracies in the diagrams as they are drawn.  
  • Chapter 2: Using Genograms to Understand Family Systems

    1. 1. Using Genograms to Understand Family Systems HDFS 444: Spring 2011
    2. 2. What is a Genogram? <ul><li>A graphical representation of a family tree that displays detailed data on relationships among individuals. </li></ul><ul><li>Commonly known as family tree. </li></ul><ul><li>Includes: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Basic family data: name, gender, date of birth, date of death </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Relationships: nature of family relationships, emotional relationships, social relationships </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Provide a way of mapping family patterns and relationships across at least three generations. </li></ul>
    3. 3. History of the Genogram <ul><li>Developed in 1985 by Monica McGoldrick & Randy Gerson </li></ul><ul><li>Together they published Genograms: Assessment and Intervention </li></ul><ul><ul><li>quickly became a classic on the use of genograms in family therapy and family medicine. </li></ul></ul>
    4. 4. Purpose of the Genogram <ul><li>” Widely used by both family therapists and family physicians, the Genogram is a graphic way of organizing the mass of information gathered during a family assessment and finding patterns in the family system.” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>McGoldrick, Gerson, &  Shellenberger, (1999). Genograms: Assessment and Intervention (2nd ed.). New York, NY, US: W. W. Norton & Co, Inc. </li></ul></ul>
    5. 5. What Does a Genogram Illustrate? <ul><li>Shows not only the names of people who belong to your family lineage, but how these relatives relate to each other. </li></ul><ul><li>Genograms look for patterns that connect (Bateson,2000 ). </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Patterns indicate how family members pass on their view of the world, including strengths , resiliencies as well as dysfunctional patterns. </li></ul></ul>
    6. 6. How Is It Helpful? <ul><li>To see the “presence of the past” in day to day living and the emotional responses to this. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>one wants to look backward, in order to make sense of the current situation, so one can have choices about what is passed on to the future. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Visually shows that the nature and the degree of intensity of the emotional responses that are passed down from generation to generation </li></ul>
    7. 7. Genogram vs Ecomap <ul><li>A Genogram is a pictorial display of a person's family relationships and social, psychological and medical history. </li></ul><ul><li>An Ecomap is a graphical representation that shows all of the systems at play in an individual's life. </li></ul>
    8. 8. Getting Started…. <ul><li>Questions to consider: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What do you remember about the family with whom you grew up? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Where did you live? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Did you have any pets? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What was your relationship like with your parents and/or siblings? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What did your father and mother do together that made an impact on you? </li></ul></ul>
    9. 9. Getting Started… <ul><li>More “Interesting” Questions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What was uncle “Joe” like? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Do you know anything about your great grandparents? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Did your parents or grandparents ever talk about their parents to you? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What were you like as a little girl/boy? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Who did/do you most resemble physically and in personality? </li></ul></ul>
    10. 10. Don’t Forget to Illustrate: <ul><li>Family Relationship: used to describe the emotional bond between people involved in a union. Click here for more information. </li></ul><ul><li>Emotional Relationships: used to describe the emotional bond between any two individuals in the genogram. Click here for examples and more information. </li></ul>
    11. 11. Digging Deeper <ul><li>Attempt to get as much factual data about the family as possible. </li></ul><ul><li>Ask questions about relationships, transmission of ideas, and world-views that can be gathered. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This is not an inquisition but simply a dialog. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If the person you are talking to does not want to talk about a subject, say, “That’s OK, but can you help me understand if it is a painful memory or why you are uncomfortable?” If they continue to resist, respect their boundary and move on. </li></ul></ul>
    12. 12. Example
    13. 13. Example