A Tool for Exploring Sexuality | Counseling | Therapy

A Tool for Exploring Sexuality

Dyonna Wilkerson — Intern therapist


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A Tool for Exploring Sexuality image

A Tool for Exploring Sexuality

When thinking about sexuality, many questions can arise. Who am I attracted to? Do I feel sexual attraction to anyone? How can I celebrate my sexuality? All of these questions, and more, are things you can explore with a sexual genogram.


A basic genogram is a tool that depicts relationships and interactions among family members across multiple generations. These can be used to show the quality of a relationship between family members, occupation histories, and even education level. Genograms were popularized by psychiatrist Murray Bowen in the 1970s. They primarily helped in family therapy sessions to get an idea of relational patterns within a family system. Genograms in general are super helpful tools to use to build deeper intergenerational understanding. There is great research that suggests early childhood experiences with caregivers/family of origin contribute greatly to how we approach relationships in the future. By examining beliefs about sex, relationships, and attachment, you can begin to understand current behaviors you may be struggling with. Below is a basic genogram template. This template can be changed to include any family structure that’s relevant to you.

Preparing for a Sexual Genogram

Filling out a genogram for the first time can be a daunting, yet rewarding, process. Before you begin collecting information, it can be helpful to consider who you had a connection with in your life. This can include parents/guardians, close friends, partners, etc. The goal here is to think about who you feel influenced your thought process around sex and intimacy. Your journey in exploring your sexual genogram is yours and yours alone, you are allowed to include who and what feels important to your life experience.

After deciding who is going to be on your genogram, it can be helpful to collect your data. Below are the different areas you may include. While doing this, consider your and others' comfort level. While the point of the exercise is to consider possibly difficult topics, your safety is paramount. Be gentle with yourself while also remaining curious.

Filling in your genogram

Start with a Genogram:

  • Begin by creating a standard genogram that includes information about family relationships, such as parents, siblings, and extended family members. Use symbols and lines to represent the various relationships present.

  • Incorporate Symbols for Sexual Orientation:
    • Use specific symbols to denote the sexual orientation of individuals, such as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, etc. Common symbols include a triangle inside of a circle to denote a homosexual cis-gender man, two triangles inside of a circle to denote a bisexual cis-gender woman, and so on. You can create your own symbols, or look up “genogram commonly used symbol key.” If you’d prefer colors to remember people’s sexual orientation, go for it! Keeping a small key to help remember what each symbol means can be helpful when processing your genogram.

  • Include Relationship Symbols:
    • Use symbols to represent different types of relationships, such as marriages, partnerships, or cohabitation. Lines connecting individuals can be solid for marriages and partnerships and dotted or broken for relationships that have ended.

  • Include Sexual History:
    • Add symbols or annotations to indicate important aspects of sexual history, such as any significant relationships, the presence of any sexual health issues, or other significant sexual history. These can include things such as sexual ideas (importance of marriage, non-traditional relationships, sexual openness) and even sexual secrets (affairs, miscarriages, or sexual health diagnoses.)

  • Consider Adding Gender Identity Symbols:
    • Consider adding symbols or notations for gender identity, such as male, female, transgender, or non-binary.

  • Use Colors or Annotations:
    • You may choose to use colors or annotations to provide additional information. For example, use different colors to represent different generations or to highlight particular patterns in sexual history.

  • Include Generational Information:
    • Show the sexual history of individuals across multiple generations. This can provide insights into potential patterns or trends within the family.

  • Be Mindful of Sensitivity:
    • Given the personal and sensitive nature of sexual information, approach the creation of a sexual genogram with sensitivity and respect for individuals' privacy. Share the information only with those who need to know or have given their consent.

  • While exploring a sexual genogram is a great thing to explore with family members or alone, not everyone has the time or resources to complete a formal genogram. If you are still interested in exploring sex, relationships, and attachment in a more conversational way, consider the following questions to ask:
    • What are messages that were transmitted throughout your family regarding sex? Regarding gender roles?

    • What questions regarding sexuality did you have when you were younger?

    • What (if anything) are you reluctant to discuss regarding sex with your family?

    • (If completing the sexual genogram with a partner(s)) What does your partner(s) think about your genogram? How are your genograms different?

Interviewing your family is a huge part of exploring the sexual genogram. If you’re apprehensive about asking family members questions about their sex lives, consider these questions below as a starting point:

  • How did you feel when dating for the first time?

  • (If family members are married) How did you decide to get married?

  • (If family members are divorced/separated) How did you decide to end the relationship?

  • How do you remember your parents talking about sex/relationships?

  • Did you discuss how to introduce the concept of sex to me?

  • What do/did you feel a relationship “should” be?

These questions begin to examine the patterns around sex, relationships, and connections that may have been present before your time. Additionally, they consider how ideas (or messages) about sex can be passed down generationally. These can be used to form an idea of your current reason for exploration.


When you are finished creating your sexual genogram, consider professional guidance. Exploring a sexual genogram can be a complex process, especially if it involves sensitive or challenging family dynamics. Seeking guidance from a mental health professional, such as a therapist or counselor, may be beneficial. If you’d like to consider your genogram before seeking professional assistance, consider the following questions:

  • While creating the genogram, did you notice any emotional/bodily reactions?

  • What (if any) trends do you notice in your genogram?

  • What are you still curious about regarding sexuality and your family history?

These debriefing questions bring into question what examining this information may feel like. First, being aware of yourself and your body can help in beginning to recognize possible anxiety or anger that may come up on your journey. In examining patterns, you can begin to “zoom out” on your genogram and understand contributions to your current reason for exploration, and maybe even identify things you’d like to discuss further with a mental health professional. Finally, getting curious is a crucial step in any exercise. By remaining curious, you allow for future information and explanations to be introduced as you explore your sexuality further.

Thinking about your sexuality can be an exciting and nerve wracking step. Whether you are dealing with sexual dysfunction or are simply curious to explore your sexual expression, it can be crucial to explore how your sexuality has developed. By using a sexual genogram, you can begin to map out the transmission of sexual ideas throughout your family of origin and add meaning to your current situation. When exploring your sexuality or current dysfunction, it’s important to remain safe. Thinking about familial patterns can be challenging, especially if you discover information you were unaware of. If you’d like to process your sexual genogram further, or explore your findings, reaching out to a mental health professional can be a great idea. At the Center for Growth, we have therapists who focus on sexuality counseling and can provide more support as you navigate through your own personal journey. If you would like to begin counseling please reach out to 215-922-5683 x 100 or schedule directly online. We have five in-person offices and can provide counseling and therapy virtually for your convenience.

InPerson Therapy & Virtual Counseling: Child, Teens, Adults, Couples, Family Therapy and Support Groups. Anxiety, OCD, Panic Attack Therapy, Depression Therapy, FND Therapy, Grief Therapy, Neurodiversity Counseling, Sex Therapy, Trauma Therapy: Therapy in Providence RI, Philadelphia PA, Ocean City NJ, Santa Fe NM, Mechanicsville VA