Genograms can be powerful tools to build awareness of patterns in families and organizations, but what we don’t often acknowledge is that genograms can be really hard to make.
Because genograms, almost by definition, sprawl across a page, sometimes genograms created in a session can turn into a chaotic scribble. Currently, the only alternative to making a messy hand-drawn genogram is to rely on software- which draws us out of the moment and spits out a rigid and clinical finished genogram.
After I created my genogram flashcards and genogram key, I was asked several times for a blank genogram template that would be easy to print and use, while providing a sort of scaffolding to create a more organized and visually understandable genogram. This user-friendly template is the result.
Get My Symbol Flashcards
Download this Genogram Template
Print this Genogram Symbol Key
This blank genogram template I developed in response to those requests is designed especially for therapists and healthcare providers who want to create genograms as part of their work, but need a little bit of help from grids and lines to maintain a readable page.
Whether your genograms track dysfunctional family dynamics, medical illnesses, substance use, or even how professional/vocational trends have shaped generations, genograms can bring clarity in much the same way that my own art does: when we take something in visually, we can often understand it in a different way than we would if we have learned by hearing or reading the same information.
Table of Contents
Because this article is on the long side, with multiple resources, here is a quick guide with direct links to important sections
Read more about using this genogram template
Purchase the printable blank template or the Jumbo Notebook on Amazon (coming soon!)
See a Sample Genogram filled out with a basic family tree
Download a genogram key and flashcards for learning symbols.
A Sample Filled Out Genogram Template
The opportunity to see a finished genogram can be a helpful way to learn about the process of making your own.
Without knowledge of genogram symbols and how they can be used together, it can be difficult to create a meaningful visual family tree even with a blank template. That’s why I created this simple genogram example about a not so simple family: Arrested Development’s Bluth Family. You don’t have to be a fan of the show to recognize that this family (like all families) has complex relationships and patterns repeated through generations.
About the Key Included in this Template
This genogram template is being published about eight months later than I planned. It’s been sitting in my drafts, almost finished, as I thoughtfully considered what symbols to include and exclude in the finite space on the left-hand side of the page. I hesitated, knowing that no matter what I chose, some individuals would be excluded.
Instead of cluttering the page with a futile attempt to be exhaustive, I chose the most basic symbols and paired them with blank spaces that you can use to either create your own symbols or bring in symbols you may have memorized from my far more inclusive genogram flash cards. The included basic shapes and symbols can be used as a jumping-off point for making symbols in a meeting with clients.
When you find yourself questioning which symbol to use, remember that all symbol-making is meaning-making, and meaning-making is the root of much of the change our clients come to us seeking. Working collaboratively to create and use symbols in a genogram that feel appropriate and meaningful to our clients may, for some, be the most healing aspect of creating a genogram. For this reason, you’ll find plenty of blank space in this genogram template.
What are Genograms?
Genograms are very similar to family trees. They connect people visually to one another through lines created by births, marriages, adoptions, sibling sets, etc. However, genograms go a step further than genealogy. In genograms, a series of symbols can help us to identify relational and behavioral patterns within family trees. Because relationship patterns, behaviors, health problems, and addictions are at least partially shaped by our genes and relational environment, genograms can be a valuable tool in mental health, healthcare, and even in educational and vocational-prep settings.
Genograms help to visually understand family patterns – including how substance use impacts generations, how one generation’s trauma impacts generations, even the ways that health and mental health diagnoses impact families.
Why a Genogram Template?
This resource (available as an oversized notepad or a printable download) contains a frame, a key, and a header. Whether you practice in the field of counseling, social work, medicine, or just want this resource for your own personal use, the layout of this genogram template can accommodate. The template allows for various family* sets to be illustrated and diagramed with ease, without the need to mess with disorganized paper, uneven lines, rulers, or the art-related embarrassment that has kept some from using this tool with clients.
Use my template to sidestep the hassle and jump right into creating a genogram. Grids and tiers can even help make your genograms easier to read and interpret.
*Although designed for families, business consultants around the world use genogram-like tools to map the impact of leaders on companies, organizations, and teams.
Good genograms with kind and accurate interpretations can help us “see” in a new way how relational dynamics (like anger, triangulation of children, or favoritism) are passed and sublimated through family trees- and this visual understand can help give us the awareness to create change. Read more about using genograms in non-family units.
Download this Template as a Printable PDF
This resource includes both an 11″ x 17″ PDF for oversized printers, and a second PDF containing the 11″ x 17″ version split into two 8.5″x 11″ pages, which can be printed and taped together to form an 11″ x 17″ page.
How to Use This Template:
Tracing this information within a family (or a non-family interrelated group) can help to understand intergenerational trauma and genetically-linked life experiences. This genogram template makes it easy for you to streamline the process, make easily readable genograms faster, and make clearer observations from finished genograms. Within the template’s frame are defines spaces for each generation’s related connections to be added. The template’s key allows for quick reference to best understand the genograms reflected within the illustration.
Who can use this template:
Although genograms are most popular in family therapy, they can also be used by healthcare providers, in substance abuse treatment, in individual therapy, and independent of therapy as part of personal growth.
While traditionally genograms were limited to tracing family connections, a new generation of providers are rethinking how we can use this tool for non-family connections.
Applying Genograms Beyond Traditional Families
Historically, families defined us; increasingly people live in and are shaped by non-family communities like non-kin family groups, intentional living communities, and other complex systems of individuals.
Any time that individuals embed within and identify as part of a system of other individuals, that system begins to subtly shape us. Genograms can be a tool for individuals or groups seeking to better understand the nature of the groups they are part of.
Instructions: Instead of literal generations, for non-kin family groups, genogram “Generations” can be reimagined as the oldest members of a group or those who hold the most power, while “offspring” might be the people that those powerful individuals have mentored, granted power to, or particularly bonded with.
Where Genograms can be Helpful:
Utilizing this template can be a helpful tool to help us notice patterns and, once aware, we can become empowered to make more informed decisions about our own behaviors. For those of us who grew up in Anglo-American culture, we often forget how influenced we are both explicitly and implicitly by our ancestors.
The field of intergenerational trauma seeks to understand these links in both psychology and genealogy, and genograms help to visually illustrate those links. I think visual aids help make important connections more rapidly.
Seeing something tangible that has only been discussed in the intangible can bring clarity for many individuals. Through using the genogram template, the visual language of genograms can more concisely represent the complexity of relationships and intergenerationally transmitted issues.
Image Description for Screen Readers
Image is of the Genogram Template layout. It is a rectangular notepad with tearaway sheets. On the left side of the paper is a genogram key, drawn to look like a piece of paper clipped to a clipboard.
It is titled “most common symbols:” and has symbols that describe people (male, female, gay, lesbian, or blank space), events (birth year, age, death, family secret, and marriage), relationships (separation, divorce, positive relationship, abuse, hostility, caretaker, distant, cut off, or blank space), and offspring (bio-child, adopted, or miscarried).
Underneath is written, “Refer to a full key as needed or use blank spaces to create your own meaningful symbol.” Next to this is a large grid drawn on what looks like a spiral notepad, and is titled “My Genogram.” There are different tiers within the grid, written from top to bottom: “Great-Great Grandparents,” “Great Grandparents,” “Grandparents,” “Parents,” “Current Generation,” “Children,” and “Grandchildren.”
Image created by @LindsayBraman, reproduced only with permission.