Genetic Counseling and Testing


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 combines:

  • Interpretation of family and medical histories to determine the risk for a disease, or recurrence of the disease
  • Education about inheritance, testing, management, prevention, resources and research
  • Counseling to promote informed choices and adaptation to the risk or condition

Adapted from the National Society of Genetic Counselors, 2005


Genetic counselors are medical professionals who are specially trained in genetics and counseling (most have a Masterโ€™s degree). Genetic counselors provide personalized information to help patients make decisions about their genetic health and they can help interpret genetic test results. A genetic counselor can guide and support patients seeking more information about such things as:

  • How inherited conditions might affect them or their 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 them, and what those tests may or may not tell
  • How to make the most informed choices about inherited conditions

Adapted from


Genetic tests can provide people with various types of information about their health. Some tests provide information about whether or not a person has a particular condition now, while other tests provide information about what a personโ€™s chance is to develop a condition in the future. There are also tests that can provide information about a personโ€™s chance to pass a condition onto their children.

Not everyone who has genetic counseling has genetic testing. Whether or not a person has a genetic test is always their choice. Nobody has to have a genetic test. For some people, testing is not appropriate given their particular personal and/or family history. Sometimes it might be best to test another member of your family first. A genetic counselor can help to determine if there is a test available that might be useful to you or your family based on your history and they can also help you communicate with your family members about these decisions.

Genetic tests vary greatly in how much they cost. Some cost a few hundred dollars, while others cost a few thousand dollars. Many genetic tests are covered by health insurance, but some are not. Your genetic counselor can often help you determine what your insurance might cover.