Summary

The goals of genetic counseling are to address the informational and emotional needs of patients and their families.10 For example, the explanation of risks and benefits associated with a genetic test that is tailored to a patient's educational needs as well as family, social, and cultural background facilitates informed decision making through promoting patient autonomy and informed consent. The key goals of genetic counseling for most patient encounters include:

• Obtain and interpret family medical history information;

• Educate patients so they understand the medical and genetic information (inheritance and recurrence risks) needed to make health-management decisions and "master" their condition;

• Promote informed decision making and informed consent;

• Be aware of nontechnical factors (social, cultural, financial, and emotional factors) that influence patients in the decision-making process;

• Foster genetic competence in patients and families; and

• Identify social and professional resources for patients.

As genetic testing expands and is incorporated into mainstream healthcare, especially for disease prevention and approaches to treatment (pharmacogenetics) for common disorders, pre- and posttest genetic counseling for every test for all patients will not be feasible. However, genetic counseling resources need to be available to healthcare providers and patients to provide education and support and to promote safety in genetic testing.

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