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The counseling Genogram tool: a perfect place to introduce ACEs?

I've spent the past three-plus years back in school, earning my Master's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins.  During those years, I've learned about many techniques that can be used to promote clients' healing.

One that caught my eye and made me stand up and cheer is the Genogram.  For those who are not familiar with the Genogram, it is a family system graphic, showing three generations of family relationships (think of the family tree you learned in school, with branches and layers for each generation, family, and family member).  In addition to the relationship status (mother, father, siblings, aunts/uncles, cousins, etc.), the Genogram provides a close look inside those relationships, with close look at social, emotional, and physiological stories that reveal trauma history, frequently handed down from one generation to the next.

The assessment portion of the counseling session is a good time to diagram the Genogram of your new client.  It's a great jumping off place and can be an eye-opener for a traumatized client who has never looked at their unique family system through this lens.

It also appears to be the perfect opportunity to spend time with your client, educating them, for example, about the inter-generational abuse/neglect that has been handed down through the generations, and now brings them into counseling for help.  It's a conversation about power, education, and building resilience, and NOT about assigning blame, or processing trauma (that will come later).   That client, who may have a family of his or her own, then becomes educated about how to mindfully make changes in the trauma they have experienced and could pass on to the next!  ACEs and the client's Genogram can be referred to as counseling continues, and examples come up about the ways in which the family trauma has impacted your client's social, emotional, and physical life. 

It was a powerful "a-ha" moment for me to run across the ACE Study on my own.  I was in counseling at the time for my own family trauma.  It helped me connect the dots between what happened to me and my siblings, and what happened to my parents and their siblings.  It gave me the power to stop, look at my parenting style and relationship with my two children.  It helped me realize I possessed the healing power to give my children an opportunity to have a different kind of childhood and a better, happier, healthier life down the road.

I'm wondering if any other trauma counselors use the ACE Study during the Genogram portion of their client assessment?  If so, what outcomes have you found as a result?  If not, why have you decided to not use the information during the Genogram, or at all?

All feedback welcome, please!  The experiences of the many will give food for thought to all.



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