Genetic counseling is defined as the process of helping people understand and adapt to the medical, psychological, and familial implications of genetic contributions to disease. This process integrates:
- Interpretation of family and medical histories to assess the chance of disease occurrence or recurrence
- Education about inheritance, testing management, prevention, resources and research
- Counseling to promote informed choices and adaptation to the risk or condition
BENEFITS OF GENETIC COUNSELING
Educate patient about the way heredity contributes to genetic disease
Help patient understand options for dealing with increased risk
Provide guidance about what diagnosis means
Provide psychosocial support
Aid patient in choosing a course of action that is personally appropriate
WHAT IS A GENETIC COUNSELOR?
Genetic Counselors (GCs) are health professionals with specialized graduate degrees and experience in the areas of medical genetics and counseling. Genetic Counselors are members of a healthcare team who provide information and support to families of patients with birth defects or genetic disorders and to families who may be at risk for a variety of inherited conditions. Certified Genetic Counselors (CGCs) have passed the American Board of Genetic Counseling certification examination.
PCP ROLE IN GENETIC COUNSELING
As part of the primary care provider's role in providing comprehensive care, any genetic assessments or discussions will inherently require some level of counseling. The PCP is urged to review communication strategies and suggested conversation techniques when counseling patients in the following situations:
- Collecting family history information
- Identification of at-risk patients through physical examination or family history assessment
- Consideration of referral to geneticist or genetic counselor
- Consideration and implication of genetic testing, especially for the following circumstances:
- When the patient is a child
- Other family members are involved in the assessment
- Significant potential barriers such as cost to patient or life insurance implications
Please visit our Patient Management page for resources on effective patient communication and template scripts.
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