Family genograms can be used to explain the complex systems within families because they give clear illustrations of how members of a family relate to one another, as well as how their behaviors influence their relationship. From a family genogram, one does not only see the names of people in a family, but also understands how every member of a family is involved in the lives of others (Mote, 2014). Peter’s family genogram shown in figure 1 above illustrates that a total of seven people have played different roles to make the family what it is today. At the top most position is Tom who is aged 58 years old. Tom married his first wife aged 50 years and they gave birth to Mathews and Irine. After staying with his first wife for ten years, Tom divorced his first wife and married the second wife aged 48 years. The two have given birth to a girl child called Christine. When still living with his second wife, Tom got married to his third wife aged 36 years.
The manner in which members of Peter’s family relate can be explained in terms of systems theory. According to systems theory, factors in a person’s immediate environment, including family members interact to shape his or her life. Systems theory assumes that the internal systems, an individual, current family, family of origin and the community all interact to shape a person’s life (Friedman and Allen, 2007). For instance, from Peter’s family genogram presented in figure 1 above, one can say that Tom decided to marry a second wife because he had just divorced his first wife. Interactions between several factors, including social, physical, psychological, environmental, and emotional factors must have occurred before the divorce.
Systems theory assumes that all social human behaviors occur with a purpose. In addition, human beings behave the way they do as a way of self-maintenance and development (Friedman and Allen, 2007). For example, one can say that Tom had personal reasons when he decided to marry the third wife. Obviously, he decided to do so with a purpose mainly for self-maintenance and development. Systems theory also assumes that human beings must try to adapt to the all factors that they come across in life (Friedman and Allen, 2007). In the case of Peter’s family, Mathews, Irine and Christine must now learn to live in a polygamous family and as sisters and brothers.
Genograms are very useful in couples and family counseling. During counseling sessions, the therapist has to collect important information about the client and his or her family. Through assessment, the counselor will be able to predict behavior. Several methods can be applied to assess couples and families during counseling. One of the assessment methods is the use of visual devices. The family genogram is a very good example of a visual device that is used to assess couples and families. Using a family genogram, the counselor can identify patterns within a family that is affecting the relationship among family members.
Genograms can be used to trace psychological and physiological patterns in marriages and across generations. In addition, the counselor can use a genogram to show the behavior patterns and health risks that predispose couples to certain emotions or conditions. By using the family genogram as an assessment tool during couples and family counseling, the counselor can easily identify reasons for divorce, source of infidelity, and the origin of other weaknesses that are affecting the relationship between couples and among family members. Generally, the counselor will be able to see the interpersonal effect of events across time when he or she applies the family genogram as an assessment tool (Ghanbaripanah and Mustaffa, 2012). Family genograms are very useful assessment tools for collecting information about family strengths, family problems, their organizations, and functioning. With the help of a family genogram, the counselor can select the best intervention approaches for their clients. In view of the importance of family genogram in counseling, it is important for therapists and counselors to receive adequate training on how to apply this assessment tool in their social work.
An understanding of my own personal genogram can impact my work as a counselor in several ways. The genogram will enable me to depict significant events and persons in my family’s history and how they influence the existing problem. With proper knowledge of my personal genogram, I can trace the major personality traits of all members of my family. With this knowledge, I will be able to uncover the patterns of behaviors of every family member, the origin of conflicts, as well as other factors that may at as the source of the present problem suffered by my client. This way, I will be able to identify the best interventions for the client.