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If you want to explore your family background on a deeper psychological or medical basis, you need to draw a genogram using a genogram maker.

Whereas family trees mainly show the direct relationships between family members, genograms show more detailed information between family members to help get a deeper understanding of a person’s behavior, background or medical history.

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Genograms were first invented by Murray Bowen in the 1970s in his work on family system models.

Genograms were then developed by clinical psychologists Monica McGoldrick and Randy Gerson in 1985 and were soon adopted by experts in fields ranging from medicine and psychology to social work and genetic research.

Genograms are important because they give a much richer picture of the relationships between people in a family and are most frequently used in social work and psychology to help in family therapy.

A genogram is typically used by a social therapist or psychologist to assess a person’s background and explore the relationship between family members to help explain behavioral patterns in children and adults.

This is inline with the Bowen family systems theory which views human behavior as an emotional unit and that these behaviors can be understood by examining the background of the actors involved.

This also applies to entire cultures and cultural genograms can help understand behaviors across cultures too.

Genograms may also be used by nurses to provide a holistic background of a patient in order to care for them most effectively.

What Goes On A Genogram?

Genograms usually contain basic information such as the name, gender and age of members but also include additional data such as occupation, major life events, chronic illness, nature of their relationship with other family members and more.

Genograms can also include information such as alcoholism, depression, diseases and living situations which may have shaped or affected their behavior.

Different Types Of Genogram

Genograms can be used in a variety of contexts but they usually contain at least 3 generations, known as a three generational genogram.

Some of the most popular genograms are:

  • Family Genogram or Gender Genogram

Family genograms (also known as kinship diagrams) show at least three generations of a family and are useful for researchers to trace a person’s parentage and ancestry.

More than a family tree though, a family genogram also gives you a much deeper understanding of the relationships between members.

  • Emotional Genogram

An emotional genogram can be used by psychologists to understand the emotional flows between members. This can be used to understand conflict within a family and even abusive relationships.

  • Relationship Genogram

A relationship genogram looks at how individuals relate to each other. This includes obvious things like marriage but also friendships, casual relationships and even affairs.

Relationship genograms also include divorce, separation and cohabitating members.

  • Medical Genogram

Medical genograms are used to trace hereditary diseases and are useful for identifying diseases in the family. Psychology or medical professionals may also draw a medial genogram in order to treat patients most effectively.

How To Draw A Genogram

To draw a genogram, either on paper or using a genogram maker, it’s useful to follow a number of steps.

  • Select the type of genogram you want to make such as relationship genogram, emotional genogram, medical genogram etc.
  • Collect the data you need. So for example, if you’re doing a relationship genogram you need the names of the members and how they related to each other.
  • Select the right toolbox of genogram symbols. Depending the type of genogram you draw, you’ll need to have all the appropriate symbols in the right place. See more on this below.
  • Connect the genogram. You then need to connect the symbols together with solid lines or even descriptive connecting lines.

Genogram Symbols

Genograms symbols are used to illustrate and link a genogram and highlight important information.

Every area has its own specific symbols such as medical genogram symbols, relationship genogram symbols and emotional genogram symbols.

Some of the most basic genogram symbols are below.

genogram symbols

But each area of genogram study has its own specific symbols too.

You can see some examples of the most common emotional relationships genogram symbols below although it’s impossible to list them all.

The best solution is to use genogram software which includes symbols for all different fields.

what is genogram - genogram symbols

There are also free genogram worksheets which include the most popular symbols to work from. Some of these al

Genogram Makers

Like anything, sketching out genograms by hand can be painstaking and messy. There are also many symbols to use and if you don’t know them, you can’t build a genogram very effectively.

The best thing to do is use genogram software. The best genogram makers like SmartDraw make it incredibly easy to draw genograms of different types.

Genogram makers include lots of genogram templates to get you started quickly and all you have to do is customize the layouts for your needs.

They also make it much easier to collaborate on genograms with colleagues, export them as a PDF or save it to Cloud services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Box and OneDrive.

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