Patient background, needs, and expectations (BNE) can be important predictors and modifiers of the process and outcomes of genetic counseling. We describe the assessment of BNE of 216 genetic counseling clients using the BNE Scale. Twenty-five percent sought reproductive genetic counseling (RGC), 57% sought adult-pediatric genetic counseling (APGC), and 18% sought cancer genetic counseling (CaGC). Analyses of the BNE of these patient groups identified significant differences in general unsureness/uncertainty about their condition (df = 2, F = 3.96, Significance = 0.02), beliefs about treatment for the condition (df = 2, F = 3.352, Significance = 0.04), and interest in support group involvement (df = 2, F = 4.6, Significance = 0.01). Respondents who had not had genetic counseling more readily endorsed the desire to address educational issues than those who had previously had genetic counseling (Previous GC: Mean = 4.03, SD = 0.67; No Previous GC: Mean = 4.29, SD = 0.61; t-value; −2.86; P < 0.01). These results suggest that there are significant differences in the BNE of groups of patients seeking genetic counseling. These data support differential genetic counseling goal setting based on practice subspecialty, as well as sustain the requirement of broad based clinical training in genetic counseling. Further, these data provide additional evidence of the reliability and validity of the BNE Scale to characterize groups of individuals eligible for genetic counseling. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.