What is a Genogram in Social Work?

Social work is a broad profession that covers a variety of interrelated practices. Social workers look at problems from multiple facets including their psychological and political nature. They are tasked to understand the problem at hand, find its root causes, and suggest the best ways for intervention and improvement. Social workers usually provide services through education, therapy, and counselling.

Social workers can be found in schools, clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, private corporations, and public agencies. They also provide their professional services to those who are in prison and are serving in the military since these people handle a different kind of stress ordinary people don’t often experience.

Although there are several types of social workers, they can be typically classified into specific categories that describe the nature of their service. Here are the 3 categories and how social workers use a genogram in each of the given situations.


Child, family, and school

Social workers who help families, children, and elderlies resolve their problems belong to this category. Most professionals delving in social work belong to this category.

Assist struggling individuals connect with their families, helping abandoned and abused children find a new home or adoptive parent, and finding resources for parents to provide better care to their children are some of the functions of a social worker under this group.

People who experience abusive relationships struggle to speak about their hardships. Relatives usually don’t know about the existence of such a situation. In rare instances, victims may find it easier to talk to a close friend about their experience. Situations like this make it even harder for a social worker, who is a total stranger, to encourage clients to talk about their problems.

Child abuse rate by race/ethnicity of the victim
(Source: Statista)

One of the uses of a genogram in social work is how it paves a path towards open dialogue. Patients who have a hard time speaking about their experience will find it more comfortable to tell their story indirectly through writing or drawing.

While patients might not be ready to talk about their experiences, social workers can already get a picture of what happened, thanks to the detailed information a genogram provides. With this, professionals can devise a more effective way to deal with their patient’s issues.

Oftentimes, people are stuck on blaming the whole catastrophe the family is experiencing on a single member. They’re so fixated with their beliefs that they fail to see the bigger picture and how everyone may be connected to the problem.

Genograms can help families overcome limitations in their viewpoint when assessing solutions to an issue. Seeing the decision patterns that led them to the situation, they’ll have an expanded perspective on how to handle the problem.

In a school setting, they work with counsellors and teachers to address incidents of bullying.

Educating people on cultural diversity is also part of social work programs. In the US, social workers are mandated to develop a course content that will teach students about diversity in race, religion, age, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. However, lectures containing factual data and descriptive content were found to be ineffective in stimulating students’ awareness and sensitivity regarding the issue.

An interactive teaching method where doing activities with a group was found to be more adequate in developing cultural values.Creating a genogram challenges the students to examine their cultural stand and explore the perspective of their classmates who have different experiences and upbringing.

Public health

Public health social workers help people with chronic illnesses find sufficient care, including resources and services that will make it easier for them to deal with their medical problem. Social workers play a pivotal role in connecting clients with numerous healthcare providers from both public and private institutions. Social workers that focus on this area can also provide counselling to families coping with the illness of a member.

Under this category, the use of genogram in social work is to capture a picture of the health and lifestyle of the whole generation. Spotting patterns in diets and eating habits can explain the cause of current health issues, and reveal possible medical scenarios in the future. This allows social workers to contact healthcare providers that have the capability of dealing with present and future situations their client may face.

Mental health and substance abuse

Substance abuse is one of the ways people deal with their problems. They’re often misunderstood and shunned by society, together with people who have mental health issues.

These people need special care and attentionand this is where social workers come into the picture. Social workers who focus on these issues look for rehabilitative programs and mental health services that provide long-term solutions to affected individuals.

Prevalence by mental and substance use disorder
(Source: Our World in Data)

Mental health problems affect a person’s behavior, emotional balance, and cognitive thinking. It can be caused by a variety of factors such as distress or suffering through interactions with members of the family, co-workers, schoolmates, or even with the community.

Instead of focusing on individual treatment, social workers can shift into a family-focused method. The use of a genogram in social work is to identify which family members can provide connected support care to patients.

In social work, there’s a concept called ‘strengths-based approach’. It focuses on a person’s strength and determination in overcoming challenging situations. More than just individual capacities, this theory also examines the environment. The people a person interacts with and the system setup they deal with daily affect their thought process, emotional connections, and personal development.

By creating a genogram, social workers are able to see the power balance in the environment, the constraints that limit growth, and the resources clients can utilize to achieve a better life. Rather than focusing on the negative aspects, social workers can devise therapies concentrating on optimistic connections that can make clients more resilient, productive, compassionate, and competent.

Typically, genograms are used to capture the relationships between family members and spot behavioral patterns across multiple generations. However, a genogram can also be purposed to gather other information like spiritual and religious beliefs, and political affiliations.

A spiritual genogram, for instance, can be utilized to identify the faith and spiritual beliefs which are considered sources of strength for many families. Social workers can use this life aspect of their clients to help them overcome their problems.

For instance, there’s the problem of accuracy and reliability of the information depicted on the genogram. This happens when the interview and research were not thoroughly done. One family member may say that the husband-and-wife relationship of a relative is going smoothly, when in fact it’s not that simple.

Basing the emotional relationship of a relative from the perspective of a single member of the family, much less someone not in close relationship with the subject, can give inaccurate and unreliable results.This can be resolved with a thorough interview of family members and exhausting all resources available to get as much factual data as possible.

Aside from the categories described, genograms can also be used in understanding the roles of racial identity, ethnicity, cultural background, and social class on and individual’s life.


A genogram is a tool often used in social work for assessing a person’s background, exploring the quality of relationship between family members, and explaining behavioral patterns in children, adolescents, and even adults. With GenoPro, it’s easy to make a genogram and the pictorial nature of a genogram makes it easy for social workers to spot areas of concern.

If you’re a professional social worker, a genogram can be a pivotal tool in helping you understand clients better. GenoPro is a genealogy software that makes it convenient to construct a genogram and create reports associated with it. It makes spotting patterns a breeze, allowing you to focus on devising ways to make the lives of your clients better.