of Origin

The Genogram

· coping tools,psychology,family therapy,genogram,family of origin

Family of Origin (FOO) refers to our family system starting in our childhood to present day; parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, etc.  In therapy, FOO awareness involves understanding present-day issues  in the context of family history and offering tools to help restructure lingering maladaptive patterns that no longer serve a client.

 EXAMPLES: A client initiates therapy because they keep losing their temper and having angry outbursts at their partner. When exploring the FOO history they notice their parents would say things like "go to your room and don't come out until you can be happy and get along with everyone". Now, the client has trouble indentifying their feelings and meeting their emotional needs without shame, so when the feel hurt or pressured by their partner to share, they just explode, because "they just want to be heard". 

Let's also pretend the same client talks with their parents out of curisoty and finds out their parents were uncomfortable with emotions because they had lost a child before and had become withdrawn from feelings, compartmentalizing the pain and moving forward as if it had not happened. Furthermore, this tactic had been passed down from grandparents so it seemed like a good way to cope with grief.

When we experience intergenerational trauma, (trauma and coping responses past down from one generation to the next), this may cause continuation of maladaptive defense strategies that can effect family patterns across time. Sometimes it is helpful to make a “genogram” to map your family tree in terms of relational dynamics as a starting point to better understand your own functioning. 

When making a genogram it is helpful to think of it as a map with particular kinds of identifiers that say what kind of marker something is. For example, here is a genogram set up for looking at the FOO of a heterosexual cis-gender couple with two children, yours would look different based on gender of parents, number of offspring, married, separated, etc. 

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There are additional markings that signal lifepan of an individual, sexual orientation, quality of these relationships, languages spoke, illnesses, and so much more.  In fact, if you need signifiers not posted here, try a google search, you might find they exist.

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As you might imagine, genograms reveal complex relationship experiences that pattern in families, and issues that also get around the family tree. Often a client will be surprised by what they discover using this tool, and generally find some information they can use to help explain something important about themselves. If you want to make a genogram online, you might try GenoPro. What will you find?


1. What sort of relationship patterns might I observe in my FOO?

2. What special markers might I need to help me track FOO patterns better? 

3. How do I currently  reflect the negative and positive traits of my FOO?


I know where I come from and where I want to go. 


If you want to understand more about why you are the way you are, reach out to one of our therapists and begin your journey inward now.