Psychological Aspects of Genetic Counseling. IX. Teaching and Counseling

J Genet Couns. 1997 Sep;6(3):287-95. doi: 10.1023/A:1025676205440.


The goals, philosophies, and procedures of the teaching and counseling approaches to genetic counseling are differentiated and compared. The teaching approach, inherited from academic practitioners earlier in this century, appears to remain the dominant form of contemporary practice. With the introduction of more nonphysician professionals, attempts are being made to combine a teaching model with counseling procedures. The goals of the two models are conspicuously different; one attempts to end up with an "educated" counselee whereas the other hopes to leave the latter psychologically more autonomous and functional. Both models have strengths and limitations. The teaching model is essentially a form of health education, not counseling, and, with some exceptions, tends to fulfill its goals. The strategy of teaching, however, tends to undermine the psychological self-directedness of counselees and thus interferes with the processes they need to draw on to make autonomous decisions. The strength of the counseling model is in helping counselees reach decisions and deal with the personal meaning of information. However, applying this model makes huge demands on the professional. Greater attention needs to be given by training programs to the pedagogical and counseling skills genetic counselors may need in their professional work.