Information about a family can be organized to reveal relationship patterns and, more importantly, changes in those patterns. By plotting the family relationships on a chart known as a family tree, the effect of the presenting complaint can be analysed by means of the concept of transitional stages.
Use of a family tree as a relationship chart is a distinctive feature of family therapy. Carter and McGoldrick (1980) give Murray Bowen the credit for developing it in a clinically useful way to gather, organize, and store information. Relationship patterns discussed in the previous chapter can be represented diagrammatically. The therapist can use the genogram as a planning tool, a therapeutic technique in a family session, and as a way of examining an individual’s family of origin in a support group. It can be restricted to the family members or can be extended to include other perhaps more significant people, such as friends, neighbours, or professional helpers. The uses are many and varied, and facilitate the shift to an approach that views symptoms in the context of the evolution of family relationships. A major advantage of the genogram is that it shows available information and indicates what else the worker needs to know. Used well, it can highlight patterns and themes which have been occurring in families for generations and may be influencing present interactions. Events that significantly alter the shape of relationships within the