Resources > How to Conduct a Genogram Interview Effectively

How to Conduct a Genogram Interview Effectively

Updated on: 03 August 2023 | 5 min read
Link Copied!

A preparatory interview to draw a genogram helps in gathering family information about a l person or family members being interviewed. It helps build a detailed and comprehensive picture of the family system which in turn will help with making an accurate genogram.

This guide shares comprehensive steps on how to conduct genogram interviews easily. Learn valuable skills and gain the knowledge needed to make the most out of this process.

Preparing for the Genogram Interview

​​As the interviewer, getting ready for a genogram interview involves some key steps. Here’s what you can do:

  • Familiarize yourself with genograms: Make sure you have a good understanding of what genograms are and how they work. Learn about the symbols used to represent family members, relationships, and major life events.

  • Practice good interview techniques: Practice active listening, asking open-ended questions, and being non-judgmental and empathetic. This will help you connect with the person you’re interviewing and make them feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings.

  • Gather necessary materials: Make sure you have all the materials you’ll need for the interview, such as a pen, paper or a genogram software, and any relevant forms or documents.

  • Plan your questions: Make a list of key questions and topics you want to cover during the genogram interview. Having a structured interview guide will keep the session focused and help you gather all the necessary information. Here’s a comprehensive list of genogram questions to get you started quickly.

  • Understand the interviewee’s goals: If possible, talk to the person before the genogram interview to find out their goals and expectations. Understanding what they want to achieve will help you customize the session to meet their needs.

  • Practice active listening: Practice your active listening skills, which means being fully engaged with the person you’re talking to. Stay present, pay close attention, and respond to what they say and how they act.

  • Be sensitive to emotions: Understand that discussing family history can be emotionally challenging for the interviewee. Prepare yourself to handle sensitive topics with care and compassion. Show understanding and provide support when needed.

  • Create a comfortable environment: Make sure the interview setting is comfortable and private. A safe and trusting environment will encourage the interviewee to open up and share their family history more freely.

  • Be flexible: It’s useful to have a structured interview guide, but also be ready to go off-script if the person being interviewed brings up unexpected or crucial topics. Being flexible lets you dig deeper into important areas and gather more information.

  • Practice self-reflection: Take some time to reflect on yourself and think about any biases or assumptions you might have about family systems. Being aware of your own perspectives will help you stay objective during the interview.

Genogram Interview Steps

A genogram interview takes sensitivity, empathy, and skillful questioning to gather information about a person’s family history and relationships. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to properly conduct a genogram interview:

Build trust

To start off, focus on building a positive and trusting relationship with the person. Show that you care and understand their feelings, so they feel safe and comfortable sharing personal information with you.

Explain purpose

Let them know that the interview aims to understand their family history and how it affects their life. Make sure that the person is fully aware of the process and gives informed consent to participate in the genogram interview.

Gather basic family information

Collect basic family information, such as the names, ages, and relationships of immediate family members (parents, siblings, spouse, children). Use this information to create the foundational structure of the genogram.

Ask open-ended questions

Use open-ended questions to encourage the individual to share their experiences and feelings about their family. Avoid yes/no questions as they limit the amount of information you can gather.

Explore family history and relationships

Discuss the quality of relationships with family members, noting any closeness, conflicts, or unresolved issues that may be relevant to the genogram. Learn about significant family events and patterns (i.e. traumas, migrations, etc.) that have taken place over generations.

Identify family roles and their communication patterns

Get to know the usual roles family members play and how these roles may have changed over time. Talk about how they communicate with each other and see if there are any patterns of open communication or any communication barriers.

Create the genogram

Collaborate on creating the genogram with the interviewee, incorporating symbols and notations to represent relationships and emotional connections.

Interpret and look for patterns

Use the genogram to identify patterns, recurring themes, and potential sources of support or stress within the family system. Discuss how these patterns may be affecting the individual’s life.

Provide support and resources

Offer appropriate support and resources based on the insights gained from the genogram. If needed, refer the individual to other professionals or specialists for further assistance.

Respect privacy and confidentiality

Make sure that the information shared during the genogram interview is treated with strict confidentiality and only used for therapeutic purposes.

Explore how to effectively use genograms in social work practice and how to collaboratively use them with clients with these guides.


Amanda Athuraliya
Amanda Athuraliya Communications Specialist

Amanda Athuraliya is the communication specialist/content writer at Creately, online diagramming and collaboration tool. She is an avid reader, a budding writer and a passionate researcher who loves to write about all kinds of topics.

linkedin icon
View all posts by Amanda Athuraliya →