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What the Heck is a Genogram

Much of my work with clients focuses on the impact of family relationships and how they have influenced and impacted one's sense of self, perspective of life, and adult interpersonal relationships. For most of us, the way we engage with family can be complex and emotionally charged. It can be difficult to remain objective to observe the potential challenges these relationships have posed to healthy functioning. I have been known to encourage clients to visualize these impactful relationships with the help of a genogram. Like a family tree, a genogram is a visual representation of our family relationships. Generally, genograms display both branches of the family tree with additional information about family roles and dynamics. I found some great resources to explain this visually on California-based therapist, Joanne B. Kim's, website, see below:

Creating a genogram is a great way to visualize a family's history and see how different generations are connected. Here's a step-by-step guide to creating a genogram:

  1. Gather family information: Start by gathering information about your family, like names, birth dates, and any other important information.

  2. Create a template: Sketch out a template of a genogram. This should include a few generations of your family, with each individual's name, birth date, and any other information you want to include.

  3. Add symbols: Once you have the basic template ready, add symbols to represent relationships, such as marriages, divorces, and adoptions.

  4. Fill in the details: Add additional details to the genogram, such as dates of major events, health issues, and any other information you want to include.

  5. Make note of the type of relationships you have with various family members. Are you close? Is this someone you can confide in? Is the relationship strained? Are you estranged from this person? All of this information is helpful in identifying relational patterns and their impact on one's current life.

Creating a genogram can be a great way to learn more about your family's history, and it's influence in your life. Of course, a genogram is often most helpful when unpacked with a trusted person who can help you process the information. Friends and therapists are a great place to start. Happy genogramming!

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