Cautions and Caveats
Because of the sensitive nature of genograms, it is important to be careful with family members' perceptions and information. If you are creating it for a class assignment, be careful not to
promise any family informants that they can see the finished version. You may wish to explain that it is a class assignment to be seen only by the instructor. You may also wish to promise
confidentiality to the persons you interview for information. And you must fulfill that promise! Individuals may be hurt if they find out others' depiction of them, an inappropriate outcome
for a classroom assignment. Be careful about where you store your genogram.
If you are expected to interview someone else in order to create a genogram, that person and his/her family deserve the same level of confidentiality. If genograms will be shared in class, many instructors permit students to share particular sections or to conceal certain symbols, so the privacy of that individual or his/her family members is protected.
Understand that there may be variations in stories and beliefs among different family members regarding certain issues, such as whether Granddad was actually an alcoholic or whether Grandma put a child up for adoption at age 17. Your mother may tell you that she has a relatively distant relationship with her sister, whereas your aunt may depict the tie as open and close. If there is information a family member does not feel comfortable to disclose, do not push that person to share it. Especially if this genogram is a class project, it should never disrupt a family’s life.
Sometimes students have decided to ask family members to help build a joint genogram. This may be acceptable for obtaining consensus on many aspects of family history, health issues, or knowledge about distant relatives. It is highly problematic, however, when members begin to collectively create the relational lines.
If you are developing the genogram for therapeutic purposes, the person(s) who will see it are likely to be bound by an agreement of confidentiality.