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Thus far, we have looked at some of the simple genogram symbols. As well as the basic family outline, genograms may also incorporate different types of relationships such as family relationships (not just marriage, divorce or separation), emotional relationships (such as hate, harmony, hostile) and social relationships (such as neighbour, co-worker, boss-employee, etc).

Let us take a look at some of the family relationship symbols that may be incorporated:


Engagement and Cohabitation

Engagement and Separation

Legal Cohabitation

Commited (long-term) Relationship


Overall, the genogram is a useful tool for establishing the family history of a client. Because of its short format, it makes it easy to read and easy to identify patterns of behavioural, medical, abuse, cultural, and legal.

However, a cautionary note: although the genogram demonstrates a client’s family history it does not necessarily mean that the client will be impacted by the history. For example, just because a client was physically abused as a child does not mean he or she will be physically abusive.

Editor’s Note: This series was based on the ‘Constructing Genograms’ course from the Counselling Academy. This course focuses on the use of Genograms in counselling practice. The course includes case studies and assessment questions, along with further examples of the complex symbols – including emotional and medical symbols. Click here to register for this course.

2 Responses to “How to Construct Genograms, Part 4”

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  1. Judy Clarke says:

    to Whom it May concern,

    I found this very interesting but can one make up a genogram using their own ‘legend’ or is the above universal language in symbology (Genograms)?

    thank you,

    Judy Clarke

  2. Editor says:

    Hi Judy
    You will find that there exists some slight variation of symbols depending on which text or journal you consult, but generally the symbols we have presented are universally recognisable. Of course, you may like to simplify or adapt the legend for use in your own practice (your clients will learn your modified symbols) but if you would like a broader spectrum of people to understand your genograms (perhaps for historic purposes), I would recommeded using the symbols as they have been presented.
    Thanks for your question. I hope this response is of assistance.

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