Outcomes of Counseling after Education about Carrier Results: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Am J Hum Genet. 2018 Apr 5;102(4):540-546. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2018.02.009. Epub 2018 Mar 8.


In-person education and counseling for all people receiving genetic results is the predominant model of disclosure but is challenged by the growing volume of low-impact results generated by sequencing. Evidence suggests that web-based tools may be as effective as in-person counseling at educating individuals about their low-impact results. However, the effects of counseling have not been assessed. To evaluate its utility, carrier results were returned to 459 post-reproductive participants from the ClinSeq cohort within a randomized controlled trial. Participants received education and were randomized to receive counseling or not. Primary outcomes included risk worry, test-related positive experiences, attitudes, and decisional conflict. Secondary outcomes were satisfaction, preferences, and counseling value. There were no differences between participants who received counseling and those who did not in the primary outcomes. Participants who received counseling were more satisfied than those who did not (x¯ = 10.2 and 9.5, respectively, p < 0.002, range: 3-12), although overall satisfaction was high. Most participants (92%) randomized to counseling preferred it and valued it because it provided validation of their reactions and an opportunity for interpersonal interaction. Web-based tools address the challenge of returning low-impact results, and these data provide empiric evidence that counseling, although preferred and satisfying, is not critical to achieving desired outcomes.

Keywords: genetic carrier screening; genetic counseling; outcomes research; randomized controlled trial; whole-exome sequencing.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Demography
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Genetic Counseling*
  • Health Education*
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Surveys and Questionnaires