What is genetic counselling?

Genetic counselling is a holistic service provided to individuals and families that are affected by, or at risk for genetic conditions. Its purpose is to support individuals and families through the process of genetic testing and beyond, equipping them with the understanding and information to adapt to a genetic diagnosis.

Genetic counsellors are health care professionals with specialist expertise in medical genetics and counselling and work as part of a larger health care team. Seeking their support through a genetic testing process can help alleviate concerns and help you adapt to a genetic diagnosis in the most effective way possible.

What does a genetic counsellor do?

  • Assess the risk of a genetic disorder by researching a family’s history, evaluating medical records, and conducting a physical examination of the patient and other family members when indicated.
  • Examine and evaluate the impact of genetic testing from a medical, social and ethical perspective in each case.
  • Provide the support and information needed to assist an individual and their family in making a decision about genetic testing.
  • Interpret the results of genetic tests and medical data.
  • Provide counselling or refer individuals and families to support services.
  • Advocate for the patient and their family in the healthcare system.
  • Explain the next steps for a patient or their family including possible treatments options.
  • Discuss life choices including family planning.
  • Advise patients on next steps with regard to disclosing their results to family, employers, and/or insurance companies.

If you are interested in learning more about genetic counselling, visit the About Genetic Counsellors portal by the National Society of Genetic Counsellors.

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