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Genetic Counselling: Psychological Issues

  1. Barbara B Biesecker

Published Online: 19 APR 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0005616.pub2



How to Cite

Biesecker, B. B. 2010. Genetic Counselling: Psychological Issues. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 19 APR 2010


The goals of genetic counselling vary according to the setting in which clients are seen, from prenatal to adult. Yet an important universal goal of genetic counselling is to address the psychological impact of a genetic diagnosis, risk or test result. Clients experience a range of genetic conditions and risks that may elicit grief, conflict, sadness, relief, guilt, uncertainty and ambivalence. The specific needs of genetic counselling clients are shaped by the degree of health threat they perceive, and by their personality traits, background, resources and prior experiences. Characteristics of the condition coupled with perceptions of its burden contribute to the quality of life experienced by clients. How well genetic counselling meets clients’ needs in enhancing quality of life is determined by the expert skills of counsellors to assist clients in using their own psychological assets to adapt to their circumstances.

Key concepts

  • Genetic counselling aims to help clients adapt to living with a genetic condition or risk.

  • Genetic counselling clients’ experience genetic conditions or risk according to their own illness perceptions and this predicts their overall quality of life.


  • genetic counselling;
  • psychology;
  • counselling interventions;
  • coping;
  • adaptation