Standard Article

Genetic Counselling Profession in Europe

  1. Heather Skirton

Published Online: 15 SEP 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0005632.pub2



How to Cite

Skirton, H. 2009. Genetic Counselling Profession in Europe. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. University of Plymouth, Heather Skirton, Plymouth, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2009

This is not the most recent version of the article. View current version (16 AUG 2016)


Genetic healthcare is developed as a speciality in Europe over the past five decades and initially services were provided by medical specialists. However, due to changes in awareness of the psychosocial impact of genetic conditions and the increase in options available to families, clinical genetic services are now frequently provided by multidisciplinary teams. In many European countries, nonmedical genetic counsellors are working as part of the clinical team, providing both information and support for individuals and families at risk of or affected by a genetic condition. Many genetic counsellors have a background in nursing or other allied health profession or have completed a Master level degree in genetic counselling. The European Network of Genetic Nurses and Counsellors is active in establishing genetic counselling as a profession in Europe through setting standards of competence and prescribing appropriate educational pathways for practitioners.

Key concepts

  • Awareness of human heredity was advanced in the nineteenth century through the work of Mendel and Galton.

  • Specialist clinical genetic services were established in Europe in the mid-twentieth century.

  • Genetic counselling may be undertaken by practitioners from a range of health professions.

  • Genetic counsellors are practitioners have a background in one of the health professions or have undertaken a Master degree in genetic counselling.

  • Genetic counsellors provide information, discuss options, support adjustment and facilitate the client to make decisions.

  • Genetic counsellors are specially trained to offer the client psychological support.

  • There are disparities in the ways in which genetic counsellors work in different European countries.

  • The European Network of Genetic Counsellors is working to setting standards of competence and prescribing appropriate educational pathways for practitioners.

  • A set of core competences for genetic counsellors is available as a basis for setting educational standards.


  • genetic counsellor;
  • professionalism;
  • competence;
  • multidisciplinary team