Ecomaps are a tool which can be used to understand a child and family's relationships with those around them in an accessible manner. They are also a good way to approach work with family members differently moving away from the standard interview process.

Ecomaps are a simple and visual way of helping people convey their own view/subjective impression of their networks and supports. They can be constructed in a very basic way, just using paper and pens. Ask the adult or child to place themselves in a circle at the centre of the page. They can then use a variety of ways to convey the relationships between themselves and other people, groups or communities.

SCIE (2012)

An example of a simple ecomap is shown below (it should be noted that this is a fictitious family).  As can be seen from the key, the type of lines represents the strength of relationship.


In this example therefore we can see that the home is made up of mum and her two daughters. Mum has a boyfriend who, from Jane's perspective, neither her or her sister like, and who Jane feels that her mother does not have a strong relationship with (with her mother having a distant relationship with her boyfriend's daughter). Jane also feels that her sister and mother do not have a good relationship. Jane clearly feels well supported by her friends at school, her father and grandparents. However this also shows that her father gets a lot of support from the church, but Jane does not feel she has the same relationship. All this can then be used as a basis for further exploration as to what is happening in the family.

It is important when doing an ecomap that whoever is completing it dates it, puts on who's ecomap it is and that there is a simple key attached.  This means that when another person comes to read the file, they too will understand how the person completing the ecomap perceived their relationships and at what point in their life this was.

Whilst this is the standard approach to ecomaps, once the basic skill is understood you can encourage people to develop their own systems to represent their networks. For example, colours could be used to show strength of feeling for individuals, pictures or photos could be used instead of circles and distance from the centre could be used to show how close the person feels to an individual emotionally.