Genetic counselling is defined as ‘a communication process which deals with human problems associated with the occurrence or the risk of occurrence, of a genetic disorder in a family’ (American Society of Human Genetics, 1975).
Genetic counselling aims to help the individual or family:
Genetic counselling provides families at risk of or affected by genetic disorders with the information and support they need to make important decisions about genetic testing, screening and options for having children.
With regards to making decisions, genetic counsellors do not ‘give advice’ or tell you what to do. They do explain all the possible scenarios and options available together with their pros and cons then support you in making the decision that is best for you.
Genetic counselling is not a psychological therapy, however, counsellors are able to refer you on to further psychological support should there be a need and interest.
Genetic counselling may be appropriate for the following situations:
Because genetic testing is a very personal decision with potentially many far-reaching consequences, it is helpful to discuss its impact beforehand with an informed, objective source.
In addition, due to the rarity of most genetic disorders, many doctors (non-geneticists) may not recognise a genetic disorder or have much in-depth information about it. Discussing a genetic condition with a geneticist or a genetic counsellor can help determine a diagnosis, even when the majority of medical care is done by other specialists.
If any of the above situations are relevant to you, you can ask your GP to you refer to your Regional Genetics Service. In the UK, Genetic counsellors work within the NHS in regional Clinical Genetics departments.
A list of the NHS genetics services can be found at: