NHGRI logo
Chromosome spread

​Genetic Counseling

updated: June 28, 2022


Genetic counseling refers to guidance relating to genetic disorders that a specialized healthcare professional (genetic counselor) provides to an individual or family. A genetic counselor might provide information about how a genetic condition could affect an individual or family and/or interpret genetic tests designed to help estimate the risk of a disease. The genetic counselor conveys information to address the concerns of the individual or family, helps them make an informed decision about their medical situation and provides psychological counseling to help them adapt to their condition or risk.


Genetic counseling is a professional interaction between a provider and somebody from the general public. You can request to see a genetic counselor because you have a concern about something that's in your family history or you want to know what screening tests are available to you in order to prevent something from occurring in your family. Or you might undergo genetic counseling because somebody is concerned that something's wrong with your child or somebody else in your family. We think about genetic counseling as a process. It's a process of understanding the genetic contribution to disease. It's a process of understanding ways to avoid risks or minimize risks to affected individuals. But importantly, it's also a process in which people can talk about their feelings of loss, and disappointment and heartbreak and be given opportunities to make good, informed decisions and to improve their health outcomes.