A genogram is a type of diagram originally used in psychology and social work to help individuals understand behavioural patterns that may impact them. It is a sort of illustrated family tree. For example, males are indicated by squares and females by circles. By using special symbols to indicate family relationships, the closeness or alienation of those, mental issues and addictions, a pictorial history of generations is created. Pregnancy, adoption, stepfamily members, birth order, suicides, divorces, addictions and such are all noted. Genograms are often used in counselling, social work, medicine and career counselling.
Genograms are used in marriage and family therapy as well as in individual psychotherapy sessions to depict historical and current information. In marriage and family therapy, genograms can illuminate emotions and beliefs attached to marriage or family roles. A family can draw on the strengths and values of their positive family patterns and identify problem concepts in order to avoid repeating negative behaviours. In individual therapy, a genogram may point to recurring themes that have impacted a person's self-concept in positive and harmful ways and help the person make a conscious choice to build on healthy patterns and reject those that have hurt growth and development.
Genograms are used in health care to identify patterns of illness, disease and at-risk lifestyles within families. For instance, a genogram can be used to discover and depict heart disease that runs through generations of a family but primarily affects the males. Or a genogram may be used to record family history of diabetes as well as obesity. Genograms can also be used to illustrate that a disease may be avoided by certain lifestyle changes. Genograms may help physicians identify illnesses that have a genetic component, such as Huntington's Disease, cystic fibrosis and haemophilia.
Genograms are also helpful in career counselling and are used as early as elementary school. Career family trees can be constructed to show patterns of careers or hobbies that have persisted in a long line of relatives, such as entrepreneurism and teaching. The genogram can be used to point out family strengths or histories to students and help them to better understand their own interests and aptitudes.
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