I am very excited tonight. I have had some success using Family Diagram while attending a psychoanalytic case presentation, and also during a brief concept presentation at a local Bowen seminar. An idea came from the Bowen seminar that already adds value to this tool as a practical contribution to Bowen theory.

During the psychoanalytic case presentation I constructed the diagram for the client’s family and got a sense of some of the most active triangles, at least as described. There was of course no description of the primary triangle between the client and two parents, but the diagram gave an interesting overview nonetheless.
This same first prototype enjoyed a great reception at the Bowen seminar as well as some good initial ideas. The most interesting suggestion was to be able to track the emotional process over time. I am imagining this as accumulatively modifying the diagram each session, storing snapshots as you go so that you can scroll through them session-by-session on a timeline. This adds a third dimension for time to Bowen’s family diagram – something that has never been done before. Because family diagrams are currently drawn on paper (or with difficult top use genogram software), all ages, relationships, and emotional process symbols are permanent for that diagram unless written in pencil. Adding this feature implies a degree of automation for rudimentary tasks like keeping ages current based on birthdays.

Here is a summary of how I envision the workflow which includes the dimension of time in a family diagram:

  1. Start a new diagram in session with a client.
  2. Add and arrange the people, data, emotional process symbols, and session process notes.
  3. The next time you meet with the client, hit “new session”. The previous session is saved as a snapshot with the appropriate date.
  4. Add and rearrange more elements on the diagram.
  5. Hit “new session” at the next meeting, and repeat…
  6. Scroll through the snapshots using a timeline scroller to get a chronological feel of the emotional process.

Some notes on the above:

  • Rearranging people affects all session snapshots (maybe; testing needed)
  • People are normally only added through the snapshots, not removed.
  • “Deleting” a person implies that they were added by mistake and removes them along with all associated notes & emotional process symbols from all snapshots.
  • People ages auto-update based on birthday. Correct ages are stored for each snapshot.
  • Think about adding a way to write/type process notes to store with each snapshot.