Genetic counselors are professionals who have specialized education to provide personalized guidance as patients make decisions about their genetic health.
They help to interpret genetic test results and to guide and support patients seeking more information about such things as:
- How inherited diseases and conditions might affect you or your families
- How family and medical histories may impact the chance of disease occurrence or recurrence
- Which genetic tests may or may not be right for you
- The benefits and limitations of genetic testing
- How to make the most informed choices about healthcare conditions
- How to navigate your test results
The Role of a Genetic Counselor
Genetic counselors complete specialized education in medical genetics and psychosocial counseling. Genetic counselors work in many medical specialties where genetics plays a role, and as our genetic knowledge in the field of neurology increases, genetic counselors have become important parts of these healthcare teams. They help physicians and their patients translate complex genetic science into practical, decision-making information to ensure the best patient outcomes.
A genetic counselor takes your complete family history, identifies who in the family is at risk for an inherited neurogenetics condition, and provides information about genetic testing and family planning options.
They facilitate the genetic testing process by:
- Identifying the most informative family member to test
- Selecting the most useful genetic testing for you and your family
- Interpreting the results
- Helping your family and your physicians apply the results to your care
They are also available to help navigate many of the personal aspects of having an inherited condition in the family, such as decisions about family planning as well as adjusting emotionally to having or being at risk for a hereditary neurologic condition. They can also facilitate referrals to long-term resources.
After testing, a genetic counselor will meet with you to review your results, ensure that you understand the implications of any findings and determine next steps.
Reasons to See a Genetic Counselor
Genetic counseling has been long recognized as an essential component to the care and management of patients with neurological disorders and their at-risk family members.
As the field of neurogenetic testing has evolved, so has the need for genetic counseling for individuals and their families in order to understand and use the information we can learn from genetic testing and family history. Neurogenetic conditions are genetically complex and can have a significant effect on psychological health among affected patients and families.
Genetic counseling helps to ensure the accurate use and interpretation of genetic tests. After testing, a genetic counselor will meet with you to review your results and the implications of any findings. If necessary, they will also help you determine next steps.