Social work has a multitude of social work interventions and tools, and an ecomap is one that we learn A LOT about in college. It’s a great tool that can offer helpful insight on a person supports and resources. We’ll dive into what an eco-map, how it’s used, and what the point in using this tool is!
What is an Eco-Map?
Ecomaps are a chart-like tool that is used within systems theory and person-in-environment to establish a person’s relationship with others, resources, supports, and barriers. Lines are then used to describe the relationship between the client and the other person/organization. These can show if a relationship is strong, reciprocal, weak, stressful, or supportive. In being able to detail this, we get a bird’s eye view of realistic resources, and where to best offer help to clients. This can also help clients see where they can use their voice, practice communication and boundaries, and embrace self determination and advocacy.
How to Use an Eco-Map?
As depicted in the above picture, the client is in the center of the page. You can identify their preferred name, pronouns and age. Some ecomaps do a mini genogram in the middle, which shows a family tree. This can be done if you are looking at a family’s network and system.
An important step in creating the ecomap is to collaborate with the client. Have the client draw out the relationships, simply offer insight and guidance into what the lines mean, and explore parties that impact the client’s life. This can include work, school, child welfare, court involvement, extracurricular activities, faith communities, volunteering, peer support, groups, and everything in between.
After completing the ecomap, this can be a tool to further explore and process relationships. If they are supportive, empower the client to use this support as needed! If clients have tension or mixed emotion with it, process this and practice communication, boundaries, and healing from these relationships in a trauma-informed lens. If a client has few supports, brainstorm where this can change, including referring to support groups and getting involved in a mentoring program or book club.
Ecomaps are a great tool if we allow them to be! Remember the client is in charge and knows their supports best, but they may need help in objectively identifying what’s helpful and what’s not. Use the ecomap as a source of empowerment, and to provide a tangible resource! This can even be interesting to look back on as the client progresses in treatment, resources change, or relationships improve!
For your own Ecomap template, use the worksheet provided here!