Project Description

Genetic counseling has evolved in the context of two different areas: medicine (i.e. genetics) and psychology (i.e. psychotherapy) and it is very much a hybrid activity between medical consultations and psychotherapy. The aims of genetic counseling include increasing understanding of disorders where genetic mechanisms are involved, facilitating accurate risk perception (i.e. to inherit, develop or pass on a condition), facilitating communication, assistance in decision-making and emotional support for families and individuals dealing with a genetic diagnosis. Genetic counseling services are now established across the world although the level of services is extremely varied (Javaher et al., 2008; Cordier et al., 2012; Skirton et al., 2013b). In fact, there is little evidence regarding genetic service quality world wide. The evidence-based movement has been constantly striving both to improve the efficacy of psychosocial interventions, including genetic counseling, and to provide treatment guidelines for clients, professional providers, and third parties alike (McAllister et al., 2015); in fact, a vast amount of research has shown the efficacy genetic counseling interventions (McAllister & Dearing, 2016). However, even thought we do know that genetic counseling “works”, we still have rather little knowledge of how or why it works. Determining the means by which effective genetic counseling works is critical: identifying the essential “ingredients” and the mechanisms through which it works is essential for maximizing its efficacy, improving psychological techniques used in clinical practice, and improving methods for training genetic counselors.

Project Objectives

With this project, our main aim is to develop and implement an assessment methodology to investigate the predictors of outcome in genetic counseling. The first three studies are aimed at the identification of genetic counseling core competences and predictors of efficacy: (1) what makes genetic counselling work; (2) what core competences are essential for genetic counselling; (3) what is the relationship between genetic counsellors’ competences and the efficacy of genetic counselling process; (4) which of the genetic
counselors’ characteristics contribute most to the genetic counseling outcome; (5) what constitutes
effective genetic counseling. The fourth study is focused on developing and implementing an instrument aimed at assessing genetic counselors’ core competences in international settings: similarities and  differences in genetic counselling practice in terms of personal or professional characteristics in various international settings.