Quick and Dirty Guide to Ecomapping


Ever since I wrote this post on family resourcefulness, I have gotten a lot of blog hits due to web searches for ecomaps. As long as I’m getting a good share of that traffic, I thought I’d post a little more on the subject.

I was trained to use ecomaps in my social work education, as you were if you have a social work degree. Person-in-environment (PIE) theory is almost foundational for social work, and examining how a person and/or family interacts with the systems around him/it gives social workers much to intervene with. For example:

Who or what systems form supports?
Where are the power differences?
Where is there friction?
In what relationships does the family need training or education to navigate?
In what systems does the family need advocacy?

This is an off-the-cuff list. There are lots of ways ecomaps are helpful. For the rest of this post, I want to give a general list of systems that are assessed in psychiatric crisis work such as I have done over the past 4 years.

Family- Who makes up the family? What are the subsystems and how do they function together? What is the identified client’s affect with each family member? How does this affect and associated behaviors make sense within the family?

School/Employment- What do relationships/supports look like here? What are the stressors? How is performance based on the client’s report and objective evaluations?

Peer- Who are the peer supports? Are these positive or negative? What activities take place with peers? Male, female, or mixed gender peer group? Does alcohol or drug use occur?

Community- What support systems are available? Are there activities to take part in? What is the level of connection to community institutions? Are there medical and mental health services that are available to meet basic health needs? Is there a positive or negative perception of the client in the community?

This is a quick and dirty guide to broad systems you would consider in an ecomap, mainly from my experience. So there is plenty of room to add to the discussion!

What would you add about the benefits and practice of evaluating PIE using ecomaps?

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