What is Genetic Counseling?

Genetic counseling is the process of helping people understand and adapt to the medical, psychological and familial implications of genetic contributions to disease. This process integrates the following:

  • Interpretation of family and medical histories to assess the chance of disease occurrence or recurrence.
  • Education about inheritance, testing, management, prevention, resources and research.
  • Counseling to promote informed choices and adaptations to the risk or condition.
From the Journal of Genetic Counseling, Vol. 15, April 2006


Genetic Counselors can take on several roles in several different settings. For example, one may see patients on a daily basis in a hospital setting while another may work in coordination with a genetics lab. Most genetic counselors practice at medical centers or universities, but some have begun practicing indepentendly. Genetic Counselors are trained in 2-year programs and obtain a M.S. in Genetic Counseling, and then more forward to take a board exam to become certified.

Genetic counselors can see cases in a prenatal, pediatric, or adult (including cancer) setting. This can obviously lead to a range of disorders that a GC must be knowledgeable about. Specifically in our training at UC/CCHMC, we utilize a hands-on approach to learning as students rotate through twelve 5-week clinical rotations over their two years to get exposure and experience in all the settings with several disorders such as Craniofacial disorders, Neurologic disorders, Inborn Errors of Metabolism, Huntington's Disease, Cardiomyopathy clinic,  and prenatal conditions.