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Abstracts

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: The Strengths and Limitations of Genograms in Educational Psychology Practice

15 October 2019

Author: Kirsty Newbury

Abstract

Genograms are a graphic representation of the composition and structure of a person’s family members, relationships, systemic patterns and influences over at least three generations (McGoldrick, Gerson & Petry, 2008). Genograms can include objective family information such as births and deaths, as well as subjective information such as relational dynamics and family patterns, and use symbols to represent these (McGoldrick et al., 2008).

The genogram is a tool, which is frequently used in systemic family therapy and has been gaining popularity in other professional fields since 1985, including psychology professions (McGoldrick et al., 2008). Training in the use of genograms is now included as part of many educational psychology professional doctorate training courses. However, there is currently very little published research literature in relation to the use of genograms in educational psychology practice.

This research was a small-scale, qualitative study, which sought to explore educational psychologists’ perceived strengths and limitations of using genograms in their practice. Seven semi-structured interviews were conducted to gather the views of educational psychologists working for a traded service in an inner-London borough.

Nine key themes were inductively identified using thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006), in relation to the perceived strengths and limitations of using genograms in educational psychology practice including:

  • engaging clients and building rapport
  • accessibility
  • information gathering and assessment
  • case formulation
  • using the genogram as a therapeutic tool
  • specific areas of need
  • ethical considerations
  • knowledge, training and experience
  • systemic considerations in current educational psychology professional context

The research also identified that educational psychologists were using genograms across many areas of their practice including; consultation, assessment, interventions, supervision, multi- professional work and critical incident response. Implications for educational psychology practice are discussed and future directions for research are outlined.

Link to full paper coming soon.

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