Last Updated 26 Jan 2021

Benefits of Genogram: Professional Practitioner’s Perspective

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Genogram Advantages

An advantage to creating and analyzing a genogram is that a person will likely find patterns and themes that exist within a family unit. A genogram not only paints a bigger picture that is overtly seen to all involved in the construction of a genogram, but also provides information that was otherwise undocumented by the client (Mallot & Magnuson, 2004; Okiishi, 1987; Tobias, 2018).

The client in the present session revealed her family’s definitions of success were not only related to gender roles in her paternal line, but similar to those of working males in her paternal line. For example, working paternal males prioritized financial responsibility whereas paternal females, whether working, prioritized responsibility to their children.

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Although the client’s maternal line of females and males seemed to have divided ideas of success, the client revealed a degree of over-involvement from her maternal family. Perhaps, the extent of parental involvement influences whether a child will develop a value similar to their parent figure.

Parallel to the client, university students revealed a greater understanding of their families and influences of career decision-making following the construction and reflection of their genogram (Mallot & Magnuson, 2004).

The genogram was not only engaging, but also provided improved self-awareness of major events, themes, and patterns within the family (Tobias, 2018). Family of the client, in the present session, had chosen occupations representative of traditional gender roles. Females served their clientele through empowering growth whereas males generally served their family by providing financial stability.

Furthermore, a case example provides a substantial amount of qualitative information including fostering greater communication with the client (Tobias, 2018). Here, the client sought out others for information which increased her communication with family members about topics generally undiscussed.

Genogram Disadvantages

Although the genogram example was simple to illustrate and engaging for the client to complete, it lacked many complexities present in family systems. Not only were the type of relationships excluded from the diagram, but the intergenerational trauma that exists was also excluded.

For example, Mallot and Magnuson (2004) included a number of variables (i.e., year married, year divorced, year separated, miscarriages, abortions, familial role models, role models outside the family, and education level obtained). However, documenting that amount of information could become endless and a client may become overwhelmed. Still, Tobias (2018) had the greatest detail in her case example, including themes of mental and physical health conditions.

These variables and themes were not present in the client’s present diagram. Thus, not only is the information dependent on the client’s motivation to disclose (Tobias, 2018), but also the client’s ability to further discuss insight such as omissions or inconsistencies was dependent on the availability of a counsellor or perspective of another not listed in the genogram (Mallot & Magnuson, 2004; Okiishi, 1987, Tobias, 2018).

Perhaps, this extra guidance would provide an overt understanding of the family unit such as the rules and guidelines unconsciously adhered by members in the family (Okiishi, 1987). Furthermore, explicitly stating this information may be unnatural to the client and challenging to achieve by themselves (Okiishi, 1987). Also, guidance may facilitate the client’s insights into their family structure compared to the introspective work alone (Okiishi, 1987). Therefore, a combination of client research and guidance seem necessary to gain further understanding.

Similar to the client’s maternal line in this session, Okiishi (1987) noted that some clients were also geographically distant from their families and were only able provide minimal information. Although the client in this current session mentioned seeking information from others and delivered a lot of information about her maternal family, the information provided by the client may represent their perception of other members compared to how the members view themselves alone (Okiishi, 1987).

Perhaps, co-creating a genogram with all members of the family together in one space at one time would be necessary to limit misrepresentation of other members in the family. Without co-creation, it is possible that the client may have their own narrative on how the family is structured compared to eliciting narratives of each member themselves (Okiishi, 1987, Tobias, 2018).

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