Explore/Assess, Family, individual

Using Genograms in Therapy & Attachment Interventions

CLIENT:  pre-teen with a history of family turmoil and attachment issues.

I have been working with a middle school student for 2 years.  The client is a 13 year old girl with a wonderful sense of self and a willingness to help others.  You would never guess that she has been through the loss of her mom due to substance abuse and a childhood of exposure to drugs and addiction.  As she gets ready to complete her final year of middle school I am beginning to think of final interventions and strategies to utilize with her in session.

Because family is often a key topic in our sessions, genograms come to mind.  A genogram works in therapy by helping a client better understand themselves.  A genogram is similar to a family tree, although it also serves as a map of family dynamics and relationships.  The guides below are needed to successfully complete a clients genogram. Basic Genogram Symbols

Emotional Relationships - click thru to see a table w/ descriptions of each relationship typeThis may take a few sessions but clients usually enjoy watching their map grow and adding in the dynamics they are living through.  The family dynamics are usually added in last.  I plan on completing the genogram on a dry erase board for easy erasing and writing.


As with anyone who has lost a parent or parent figure attachment is a growing concern.  In helping my client deal with attachment issues such as her adoption, friendships and romantic relationships I have included 3 attachment building interventions below.  These interventions are part of a longer  list.  The following interventions can be done in therapy to build attachment skills.

  1. Play a memory game but with a more personal touch. First, have your child look you over very carefully. Then leave the room and return after you’ve changed something about yourself. See if s/he can figure out what is different. It could be something really obvious for younger kids, like taking off a sweater, but for older kids you could get more challenging, like buttoning one more button on the sweater.

Play catch! Roll a ball back and forth to teach reciprocity. Throwing or batting a balloon back and forth may be easier than throwing a ball for little ones.

To leave with laughs…An inside joke or fantasy for social workersI'm think this is funny even though I'm pretty sure no one outside of the social work profession (or other related fields) understands the joke. :)


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