Genetic Counseling



Genetic Counseling consists of determining the risk that is associated with an inherited disease. The therapy is conducted by a trained professional who looks at the risk pertaining to the family. They will diagnose the condition further, especially if they point towards disorders and patterns that are more likely to recur. A gene is the portion of DNA that passes along a given trait. They are the building blocks of heredity which forms the blueprint of a child. Some of these genes can pass along conditions or behavioral patterns that a parent would want to be aware of before pregnancy.

Goals of Genetic Counseling

Genetic Counseling often takes place for the purpose of preventing birth defects and genetic disorders. It can be used if the psychological health is a concern when a child is adapting to their environment. The client is the only resource who decides on the counseling and whether or not they will have a child. Whether or not the counseling is for genetic disorders or psychological conditions it often depends on family history or known patterns. Each client that attends Genetic Counseling possesses a different need and has a customized goal toward pediatric care.  The health care providers and clients will work together when deciding upon a goal consensus.

When is Genetic Counseling Used?

Counseling is used in the case of a Genetic Disorder which can be caused by various factors depending on the gene. Some are the result of abnormalities in the chromosomes. There are also disorders that could be the effect of a single gene or genes declared dominant or recessive. It is far more common if the child has developed a dominant gene instead of an X-linked disorder or recessive DNA trait. When birth defects are present it could be the result of a spontaneous mutation or error that occurred when cell division was taking place. If one gene changes it could be the effect of environmental toxins. Recreational drug use also causes a genetic disorder and has the potential in leading to birth defects.

How Genetic Counseling Works

When the client is working with the counselor they will look into blood relatives, disease backgrounds and why the conditions may have occurred. These are the most important components when looking at the genetic risk associated with reproduction. To further this evaluation the health care provider will speak to the client about the occurrence of twins, cancer or hypertension within the family. They will question the presence of diabetes. The ethnic background and current health status of parents or grandparents will also be taken into consideration. If the client suspects that the child has a high risk of being born with a defect for any other reason it is necessary that they release that information to the health care professional.

After counseling the individual has a deeper understanding of genetic disease, risks and how that ties into reproduction. Each of these sessions are going to provide the client with information that is based on scientific information. The contact phase between the counselor and families consists of performing screening or diagnostic tests which allows the professional to analyze critical information and help the client decide upon their reproductive measure. If the steps have already been agreed upon the counselor creates a screening appointment. They will also communicate testing results to the client afterwards.

Counseling is not only for risk assessment but to explain the cause and pattern of many disorders. Although there are limitations to testing there is a lot of information that is revealed. During counseling information is interpreted so that it contributes to the client's decision making. Genetic counselors also serve as a support system toward couples or individuals who are facing hardships as a result of their inability to reproduce. If the client is pregnant and they are concerned about risks before, during or after labor they should also confide in a genetic counselor. The clients benefit from learning more about conditions and how much of a risk factor they are. The sessions may last up to an hour or longer depending on how complex the case is. The healthcare professional may be a geneticist, physical or specialist in genetic counseling. As a professional assessment of risk factors the advisor must hold a minimum of a Master's Degree in Genetic Counseling.

Criticism of Genetic Counseling

These counseling sessions raise unknown questions such as the risks that are associated with tests and how reliable they are. Experts argue that the severity and nature of the disorder are difficult to determine through screening procedures.


Assessing genetic risks. (n.d.). Retrieved from

The dna exchange. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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