Genetic Counseling is mainly concerned with helping people and households recognize their danger of passing on genetic ailments. Counseling is done to teach them about their situation and evaluate the threat to by themselves and of it getting passed on to any future kids.
Having early consultation and discussions with a genetic counselor about genetic testing can reduce feelings and emotions of being hurried to make a decision later on, but genetic counseling is focused more towards advising the best solution for coping with the illness or if possible, even the prevention of the disease or diseases involved. It includes mild emotional counseling for patients and their families, as well as physical-condition counseling for the individual patient involved.
Genetic counseling is definitely not a form of psychological counseling or psychotherapy, despite the name. It should not be confused with counseling therapy used to treat mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety. Genetic counselors, rather, serve as patient advocates, helping patients receive additional support and services for their health care needs if needed, such as the recommendation of mental health counselors, support groups or other sources of support for patients.
It is important to remember that the counselor will not make the decision for their patient nor tell them what concrete step should be taken next. Counselors will only give patients clear, accurate information on their condition, so that patients can decide on what is best for them.
In conclusion, genetic counseling is done as a diagnosis for a person’s probability of inheriting an illness or passing a genetic disorder to future offspring. The role of the counselor stops there. For a clearer picture of a genetic counselor’s roles, the following activities are not included in genetic counseling sessions:
Testing or any other procedure that are not explicitly approved by the patient. A counselor will explain tests that are possible for the patient’s condition. However, any test cannot be done without the expressed written consent of the patient, even if it is taking a blood sample for DNA test results.
Counselors cannot give prescriptions, only medical doctors are allowed to do so.
Counselors also cannot give specific medical recommendations such as concrete steps of what to do next to the patient. The counselor’s role is only to make sure that the patient fully understands the risks, benefits, and possible consequences of every option available.