Genomic resource centre

Genetic counselling services

Genetic counselling is the process through which knowledge about the genetic aspects of illnesses is shared by trained professionals with those who are at an increased risk or either having a heritable disorder or of passing it on to their unborn offspring. A genetic counsellor provides information on the inheritance of illnesses and their recurrence risks; addresses the concerns of patients, their families, and their health care providers; and supports patients and their families dealing with these illnesses . The Heredity Clinic was the first genetic counselling service centre established in 1940 at the University of Michigan, USA. Since then the many such centres have been opened around the world.

Over the years, the role of a genetic counsellor has evolved from simply drawing pedigrees in an attempt to help clarify the genetic components of diseases and birth defects, to the present non-directive approach, requiring counsellors to provide information and feedback to patients on the inheritance or risk of inheriting illness. With the mapping of the human genome project in 2001 the role of genetic counselling has increased further both in scope and importance.

Individuals who come to see genetic counsellors may have a disorder themselves and be concerned about their family and vice versa, couples with an affected child who wish to plan another pregnancy, couples who are planning their first pregnancy and wish to understand the child’s disease susceptibility of their future child as well as couples who are planning a pregnancy late in life and want to assess any potential risks. Genetic counselling service may be useful at all stages of development, for instance babies undergoing screening, teenagers being tested for Thalassemia genes or assessing the genetic predisposition of adults as they enter mid-life to accommodate for lifestyle changes.

Genetic counsellors now work in many capacities besides the traditional setting of the hospital. They work in the fields of education, administration, policy-making, as well as for biotechnology companies as representatives. Many also work shoulder-to-shoulder with scientists and with medical doctors in interpreting test results.

Resource and technological advancements have enabled genetic counselling to play a major role in health care of many developed countries and presently its potential is being realized in the less developed countries. But this is still a burgeoning field; it is limited in developing countries, where the duties of counsellors are still being fulfilled by other healthcare professionals without formal specialization.


More information on genetic counselling

Online directories of genetic counsellors
Organisations related to genetic counselling
Other related resources

Online directories of genetic counsellors

  • National Society of Genetic Counselors (USA / International)
    The National Society of Genetic Counselors, comprised of members primarily from the United States and Canada, contains a search engine to search genetic counsellors all over the world. The society aims to promote genetic counselling as a career and to provide genetic counselors with opportunities for growth.
  • Canadian Association of Genetic Counselors
    The Canadian Association of Genetic Counselors is comprised of a member pool from various backgrounds, including students and physicians. They have an executive board list on the site, which one can contact in order to receive more specific information. They also have contacts for the various committee members.
  • Cancer Genetic Services Directory (National Cancer Institute)
    This directory is housed in the National Cancer Institute web site, and contains contacts for health professionals in cancer genetics from various locations. There is a searchable engine where one can choose the type of cancer, etc. It provides a list of genetic services relevant to the search choices.
  • March of Dimes
    The March of Dimes provides basic guidance on the choice and need for genetic counselling at the same time encouraging visitors of their site to contact local chapters to obtain more information about genetic counsellors and services available in their area.

Organisations related to genetic counselling


Other related resources

    • "Genetic Counseling and Testing in Families With Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer." Archives of Internal Medicine. Volume 163: 573-582. 2003.
    • "Antenatal Screening for Down's Syndrome with the Quadruple Test." The Lancet. Volume 361: 835-836.
    • "Genetic Counselling for Haemophilia." Treatment of Hemophilia. May 2002. No. 25. World Federation of Hemophilia.
    • "Genetic Counseling Gone Awry: Miscommunication Between Prenatal Genetic Service Providers and Mexican-origin Clients." Social Science and Medicine. May 2003. Volume 56. Issue 9. Pages 1933-1946.
    • "A 'Normal' in Genetics Tests can Bring New Problems" by Carey Goldberg. Boston Globe. 17 February 2002. Page A1.
    • "Science Peers Behind Veil of the Unborn; Today's Testing Carries Power and Responsibility" by Elizabeth Weise. USA Today. 2003.
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