Nondirectiveness in genetic counseling: a survey of practitioners

Am J Med Genet. 1997 Oct 17;72(2):172-9.


The literature defines nondirectiveness as a genetic counseling strategy that supports autonomous decision-making by clients [Fine, 1993]. This study surveyed 781 full members of the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) between April and June, 1993, to assess how they define nondirectiveness, its importance to their practice, and how and why they are ever directive. Almost 96% of 383 respondents reported viewing nondirectiveness as very important, but 72% stated they are sometimes directive. The most common reasons for directiveness include: difficulties ensuring that verbal and nonverbal cues remain nondirective; to recommend testing; client is unable to understand; a better choice is clear; to recommend medical care or counseling; or when a client has difficulty making a decision. Nonsignificant Chi-square analyses indicated that counselor responses were independent of counselor demographics. While these findings suggest that nondirectiveness is a goal in genetic counseling, it is not the only goal. Recognition of the delicate balance between directing the process and defining the outcome of genetic counseling can enhance clinicians' ability to discern the circumstances under which directiveness is and is not appropriate.

MeSH terms

  • Comprehension
  • Data Collection
  • Genetic Counseling / psychology*
  • Genetic Privacy
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Professional-Family Relations
  • Social Values
  • Truth Disclosure*