An ecomap diagram is a type of flow chart, or picture, that maps out the social and community influences of a family. Social workers and other social service workers typically use ecomaps to help identify both the strengths and challenges that an individual family faces in its current environment. Ecomaps can be used to assess interfamily dynamics, interactions with social institutions such as work, school, friends and social service organisations. Ecomaps can also be used tools for therapeutic intervention. When ecomaps are made in conjunction with family members, family members may be able to see for themselves previously unseen themes and patterns.
Draw a medium-sized circle in the centre of a piece of paper. Place symbols for family members inside this circle. Ask each family member to choose a colour that will be associated with that person. Use that colour when drawing symbols and information connected to that person.
Start with the parents. Connect their symbols using a straight line. Add children by connecting them with a line stemming from this connecting line. Draw squares to represent males and circles for females. Write the person's name and age near his symbol.
Ask family members individually about the environmental systems they interact with regularly. Give examples such as work, clubs, sports, friends, church, extended family and regular family activities. Explain that they should include the things they do most often, if they have difficulty narrowing down this list.
Draw smaller circles outside of the middle circle to represent the named systems. Label these systems as appropriate -- for instance, "Mom's Work." Draw lines to represent the relationship that different family members have with this system. Use different types of lines to represent that relationship. For instance, a solid line represents a strong relationship and two solid lines together indicate a very strong relationship. A wavy line can be used for a strained relationship and a dotted line for a negative relationship.
Although family ecomaps are the most common, it is also possible to make an institutional ecomap. Use a specific agency in the central circle and use the surrounding circles to represent other agencies with which it interacts.
Using ecomaps to look at family dynamics can sometimes reveal unexpected or sensitive information. The information learnt from an ecomap should be treated with respect and discretion.