Ecomap: Definition, Symbols, Examples, and Creation Tutorial

Ecomaps are social assessment tools used to get insights into a person’s social networks. Find out more about ecomap symbols and examples. Learn how to make an ecomap from scratch.


Social networks are critical for an individual’s growth prospects. Whether it is social progress or health, everything is determined by a person’s social influences. This is where ecomaps come in handy!

These visual diagrams showcase a person’s community networks like family, friends, religious places, schools, etc. Clinical practitioners and social counselors leverage ecomaps to plot your external world connections.

However, ecomaps are different from other diagrams. They have specific components and connections to illustrate a person’s social influences. Hence, it calls for a quick-stop ecomap guide.

This guide looks at what is an ecomap, ecomap symbols, and a step-by-step process on how to make an ecomap. It also provides a few ecomap examples to improve your understanding of their applications in routine life.

In this article
  1. What Is an Ecomap?
  2. Ecomap Symbols
  3. Where To Use Ecomaps
  4. Ecomap Examples from EdrawMax
  5. How to Create an Ecomap?
  6. Top Three Ecomap Makers
  7. Conclusion

Part 1. What Is an Ecomap?

Ecomaps visually depict an individual’s connection to the external world. Unlike genograms, these charts provide valuable insight into a person’s immediate family dynamics and social networks. These networks can be your friends, schools, community centers, and religious places.

Typically, ecomaps have the individual in the center surrounded by shapes in a circle. These shapes represent social entities. Various arrows and lines suggest the nature of relationships between the person and social networks.

Components of Ecomaps

An ecomap usually focuses on an individual’s connection with social networks. Various symbols and shapes are used to depict these networks and connections. Though different shapes depict them, ecomaps have common social networks. Let us discuss them in detail.

  • Subject: The focus person in an ecomap is known as the subject.
  • Primary Networks: A person’s immediate family is considered a primary relationship. These can be their mother, father, and siblings.
  • Secondary Networks: External social institutions like welfare agencies, community institutions, and religious centers are the secondary networks in an ecomap. These can be schools, friends, places of worship, sports clubs, workplaces, and community centers.

Genograms Vs. Ecomaps

Most people confuse genograms with ecomaps, which is understandable but wrong. Both these diagrams visually illustrate the family dynamics. However, their information patterns and the nature of family dynamics are completely different.

Genograms emphasize behavioral, medical, and emotional influences in a family. In comparison, ecomaps are used to get insights into a person’s personality based on routine social interactions. 

Part 2. Ecomap Symbols

Ecomaps have exclusive symbols representing the strength and nature of a person’s relationship with their social networks. Following are some common ecomap symbols and their meaning.

  • Square: Squares are used to represent male members of the family. However, some medical professionals may replace them with circles. For example, Adam and Greg in the example mentioned above.
  • Circles: Circles are used to show the female family members, such as Louise and Michelle, shown in the diagram.
  • Thick or Dark Lines: These lines represent the strong positive relationship between two components. For instance, Greg’s relationship with his immediate family members is shown in the centered circle.
  • Curved or Broken Lines: These lines suggest stressful or negative relationships in ecomaps. Usually, these lines are red. An example can be Greg’s relationship with his school.
  • Small Arrows Along the Line: Lines with pointy ends show the flow of energy in an ecomap, like the relationship between Greg and his friends.
  • Line with Cross Through Them: These lines depict the relationship that no longer exists.

Part 3. Where To Use Ecomaps

Ecomaps are widely popular in the social work and healthcare industries.

Social Work

Social workers use ecomaps to identify their client’s negative and positive social influences. It helps them assess the effectiveness of their networks in achieving goals. A social ecomap offers insights into a person’s potential growth areas, resources, supportive welfare organizations, community connections, and family dynamics.

Having this information combined aids social workers in conducting counseling discussions and building transparent relationships with clients. This way, they can allocate the right sources and promote social support networks to help a person achieve his/ her personal and professional goals. 


Ecomaps are used widely in qualitative health research as a visual tool to assess and evaluate a person’s social influences. Clinical practitioners (therapists, psychiatrists, etc.) and researchers use ecomaps for baseline discussions. It helps them understand each family member’s perception of the role and beliefs of family in a community.

Thus, ecomaps in healthcare can be useful to transform a family’s journey in evaluating their requirements and external networks. In addition, these diagrams are also used in nursing to determine effective treatment interventions.

Part 4. Ecomap Examples from EdrawMax

Want to visualize how relationships play in an ecomap? Let us check out some ecomap examples from EdrawMax's template community. 

Ecomap Example Social Work


This family ecomap comes in handy for therapists and counselors to study an adult’s social relationships. It illustrates the primary and secondary social circles to assess their impact on a person’s life. The creator has used bold and regular fonts to differentiate between the social network categories. Plus, its general layout makes this example a suitable alternative in clinical setups. Just change the subject name and their network details.

Ecomap Family Example


This ecomap example for family visualizes the influence of social networks on an individual and his/ her family. It uses intricate relationships for medical professionals to evaluate connections at different stages. For this, the creator has used different colors to differentiate between primary, secondary, and tertiary influences on the subject individual. You can always add or remove these circles to amend these networks. 

Ecomap Example Nursing



Here is another ecomap social work example for therapists, psychiatrists, and counselors. Its detailed layout and labeled legends eliminate the hassle of creating an ecomap from scratch. As a healthcare professional, you can classify this example as a staple ecomap for patients.

Organizational Ecomap for Small Businesses



This ecomap example illustrates the organizational relationship of a small business. It gives valuable insights into the type of connection a business has with its employees, customers, vendors, and manufacturing partners. For a better understanding, the creator has further utilized different lines to depict the association between components. Consultants can leverage this template to understand the hierarchy and functionality of any business.

Part 5. How to Create an Ecomap?

Creating an ecomap is no rocket science. All you need is a clear understanding of ecomap components and the right steps to plot these components. Let us discuss how to create an ecomap social work in detail.

Step 1: Understand the Ecomap Elements

Before plotting ecomaps, one must understand their components. Typically, an ecomap has the following. 

  • Individual/ Subject: The focus person of the ecomap.
  • Systems: The person’s surroundings. It can be their family, friends network, or social organizations like school, church, etc.
  • Connections: Lines that depict the relationship between the subject and the system.

Step 2: Plot the System

Take a blank space and draw a large circle in the center, having the person in the middle of the circle. Around this, add circles to represent the males and females of the person’s immediate family. Label each shape using name and age.



Step 3: Build Relationships

Next, identify the quality of the person's relationship with immediate family members. Here is what each line represents

  • Thick, dark lines represent a strong positive connection.
  • Broken lines show weak connections.
  • Lines with crosses through them depict non-existent present relationships.
  • Arrows pointing in one direction along the line represent interests.



Step 4: Identify Social and Environmental Systems

Once done, identify the extended family members and friends. Also, look for social systems like schools, offices, churches, welfare agencies, law enforcement agencies, etc.



Step 5: Build Connections

Again, use the same curvy, straight, or broken lines to depict the quality of relationships. Finally, your ecomap is complete. Make sure to revise the ecomaps for accuracy.



Part 6. Top Three Ecomap Makers

You can make ecomaps on paper. So, why choose a digital canvas? Spending time making updated drafts every few sessions can be hectic. It affects your working hours in busy healthcare or social care setups.

The least a digital ecomap software does is let you make amendments in an already made ecomap, saving time and effort. These tools simplify the ecomap creation process with premade templates and collaboration features.  So, let us discuss the top three ecomap makers.  

1.    EdrawMax

Wondershare EdrawMax is a free diagramming tool with numerous ecomap templates and professionally designed vector symbols. Its visual details and formatting options make it stand out, which helps the creator build a visual flow between the components. It does not stop here. EdrawMax features multiple export formats, including Visio, PNG, PDF, and more.


  • 18,000+ templates, including ecomaps and genograms for clinical professionals.
  • Easy-to-use, intuitive interface for non-technical users.
  • 10+ export functions, including Visio, PNG, JPG, PPT, PDF, etc.
  • Personal Cloud space for clinical professional-client collaboration.


  • Limited features in the free version

2. is yet another quality choice for occasional drawings. The tool supports an interactive, collaborative space where clients and counselors can discuss the ecomap creation process for better accuracy. In addition, the premium version offers access to some handy templates that save time and effort from your busy schedule. 


  • Supports real-time collaboration with a Google account.
  • Free access to basic features.
  • Multiple export options, including PNG and PDF.


  • Might not be an easy option for non-technical users.

3.    Visio

Visio is an impressive paid tool for ecomaps with its advanced vector symbols and professional diagrams. Its beginner-friendly interface and premade ecomap templates help corporate workers save effort. Not only this, Visio offers integration into other tools for maximum productivity. 


  • Support integration into other tools.
  • Drag-and-drop interface
  • Features collaboration tools.


  • It is a paid tool.


Ecomaps are a handy tool for clinical and social work practitioners to get to know their clients. It helps them understand an individual personality and how external social forces influence their behavior. However, learning about ecomaps and creating them demand resources.

Hence, what’s better is that you switch to a digital ecomapping tool. EdrawMax is such an advanced diagramming tool with ecomap symbols and premade ecomap examples. So, you can make an ecomap in no time. Its simple interface and collaborative space make this tool practical for professionals.

edrawmax logoEdrawMax Desktop
Simple alternative to Visio
210+ types of diagrams
10K+ free templates & 26k+ symbols
10+ AI diagram generators
10+ export formats
edrawmax logoEdrawMax Online
Edit diagrams anywhere, anytime
Personal cloud & Dropbox integration
Enterprise-level data security
Team management and collaboration
Edraw Team
Edraw Team Jul 04, 24
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