Genetic counseling makes genetic information available to clients and facilitates their use of that information. Genetic information is important to understanding the cause of conditions, making informed choices, and adapting to genetic risk. The range of information provided includes the medical diagnosis, the inheritance pattern, the risk of recurrence, medical management or surveillance, prognosis, schooling needs, support groups, financial issues, and reproductive options. Since clients often seek services around significant life events or crises, the information is often highly sensitive, such as predicting the health of future children, the likelihood of a late onset condition, or the loss of an affected child. Discussion of genetic conditions or risks may therefore elicit feelings of lowered self-esteem, guilt, shame, loss, and blame for parents of affected children. Overall addressing the cognitive, affective, and behavioral aspects of clients' responses to the information are central components to genetic counseling. A practice definition states that:
Genetic counseling is a dynamic psychoeducational process centered on genetic information. Within a therapeutic relationship established between providers and clients, clients are helped to personalize technical and probabilistic genetic information, to promote self-determination, and to enhance their ability to adapt over time. The overarching goal is to facilitate clients' ability to use genetic information in a personally meaningful way that minimizes psychological distress and increases personal control. (Biesecker and Peters, p. 195)
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