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Genograms and Relationship Maps as Medical Tools

The purpose of this article is to evaluate the importance of genograms and relationship maps as medical tools. The methodology and when these exercises can be introduced in the medical field, the advantages of the practices from an evaluative viewpoint and how the maps may be applied in treatment are discussed.

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According to Rigazio-DiGilio (2004), a genogram can be described as a tool for tracing family history and relationships of an individual. It gives a comprehensive representation of the family or group o’er a family tree because it comprises genealogy facts and various kinds of relations, ancestral or not. It uses inter-generational relationship maps to give a representation of what is happening across different families and across generations, offering a wide framework for observing family, emotive and social relations.

These tools have been applied over the last four years as an instrument for mapping family structures as well as the psychological aspects that interfere with relations. They enable a specialist to categorize and appreciate the repetitive aspects of performance and to identify genetic tendencies. Thus, genograms are common with clinical experts in the fields like social work, psychotherapy, psychology, genomic research, genealogy, and education amongst others. More info can be included in a genogram dependent upon whatever a specialist would want to know.

The first stage in constructing a clinical genogram is making an inquiry from the relatives of an individual regarding their health history. A practitioner may take a certain area of interest in infections like high blood pressure, tumor, heart diseases, psychological diseases, asthma, diabetes, genetic defects, diseases of the kidney, stroke amongst many others. They may also consider analyzing the historical cases of addictions to alcohol, smoking and usage of drugs. Recording the stage at which a particular illness started is necessary as it could be pertinent information. For example, did the grand parents get infected by asthma at age 20 or at age 70? This could be important in evaluating if the patient is susceptible to such illness. Other information such as ethnicity of the families and death age of the late relatives may also be important since some illnesses occur frequently in certain ethnic groups (McGoldrick & Gerson, 1985).

Even though genograms can be constructed at any time, it is commonly used by medical practitioners on their patients. A clinical genogram is useful in identifying patterns of infections or disorder within a family. Parents are the best sources to start with in gathering genogram information. Medical experts need to inquire about the parents and relatives of an individual. Previous family tree, maps, or lists of family relations relatives can provide useful information in constructing genograms. The maps could be applied to help in management and administering the best treatment for a certain illness within a given family or group. For instance, it may be necessary to recommend vaccination at a certain age of the group.

One of the major advantages of genograms is that it can be appropriate in a range of fields and areas apart from healthcare. Genograms can be used in different groups of persons comprising of ethnic, marginalized or minor groups in areas like justice, learning and in community development as an instrument to give a perception of the relations and associations of persons within a community. Just as other methods used in assessment, genograms and relationship maps have been improved with time for application in many purposes.


McGoldrick, M., & Gerson, R. (1985). Genograms in family assessment. New York: W.W. Norton.

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Rigazio-DiGilio, A. (2004). Community genograms: Using individual, family, and cultural narratives with clients. New York: Teachers College Press.

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