Family Patterns of Communication

Create Your Own Genogram

Now that you're ready to create your own genogram, you may be asking yourself - where do I begin? Before you even start putting pen to paper or mouse to mouse pad, you will need to do some background work. First, you need to decide how many generations you wish to depict on your genogram. You will probably want to keep to three to four generations. Next, you will need to do some research. You may look at a family tree to make sure you have all the names, birthdates and relations correct. You may interview some family members to fill in missing information. You might ask family members to tell you family stories to help you understand what types of relationships different family members have. Remember what you learned in the Cautions and Caveats section and be sure to be sensitive in approaching family members.

Once you have the information collected, you can let your artistic talents flow! There are two methods of creating a genogram: drawing and using a computer. No matter which method you choose, be sure to refer back to the Basic Genogram Components section to help you ensure you are using the accepted symbols for genogram creation.

Drawing: We've seen family communication students create fantastic genograms with markers and posterboard or a large piece of paper. If you choose to create your genogram by hand, you may want to begin by penciling in the circles and squares to make sure you have enough room, and following up with a darker pen or marker.

Computer: If you want to use a computer to create your genogram, the least expensive option is to simply use a "Draw" program such as the one that is found in Microsoft Word.

There are also some computer programs that can be purchased to help you create genograms. If you plan on doing a lot of genogram creation, and don't mind spending some money, you may want to investigate this option. The program we used to create the genograms in this website is called Genogram-Maker, produced by Humanware. You may also want to do a search on the Internet using "genogram" and see what other sites are offering computer genogram creation programs.

You may also be wondering how much detail (family members' names, occupations, dates, etc.) to put in your genogram. The answer to this may vary depending on the purpose of the genogram. You will notice that the genogram segments depicted in this website differ on the amount of detail given, depending on the index person (IP) and the issues of the family. For your first genogram creation, you may want to focus on one or two primary threads which tie to a specific youngest generation individual. For example you may be the IP, and, although you may note seven aunts and uncles you will not try to develop each person's family unless one is highly significant. Once you have the "family map," you may proceed to introduce the symbols which indicate the type/quality of relationships among key members. Be sure to write in or key in significant issues or events (e.g. hospitalized for depression regularly). Note ethnicity and themes where appropriate. Note stillbirths and miscarriages if possible.

The bottom line is that as long as you follow the accepted symbols for genogram creation, do what you need to so your genograms works for you.

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© 2010 Kathleen Galvin