It has been 20 years since I decided I wanted to be a genetic counsellor. In that time, I have been asked hundreds of times what exactly genetic counselling is and what do genetic counsellors do.
There are plenty of definitions out there, but for me, genetic counselling is about helping people understand the complexities of genetics, what it means for themselves and their family and supporting them in coping with and managing this information. Genetics has become a popular topic that comes up in everyday conversation. It can be hard to sift through the information available to us to understand what it means personally. I feel it is my role as a genetic counsellor to help people do that – to understand if their family history of a certain disease increases their own risk of developing that disease or their risk to have a child with the disease, to see if there is genetic testing that might clarify their own health situation or change their medical management, to understand what the result of a genetic test means for them and their family members, and to help other health professionals understand genetics and integrate this potentially powerful information into the care of their patients.
I decided to become a genetic counsellor because the combination of genetics and counselling psychology intrigued me. I keep doing this job because I love helping people understand more about their genetics and how it may impact their health.