About genetic counsellors

Genetic counsellors are health professionals qualified in genetics (the study of conditions caused by gene changes) and counselling. They work as part of a team, often with clinical geneticists.

If you do have a genetic disorder in your family, genetic counsellors can help you learn about:

  • how the condition might change over time
  • how the condition might affect your life
  • how likely it is that other family members will get the condition
  • how you might be able to prevent other family members getting the condition
  • how you might be able to connect with other families with a similar genetic condition.

Genetic counsellors can give you information, help you make decisions or help you change your lifestyle to manage the condition.

Genetic counsellors are trained to respect and think about your family circumstances, beliefs and values. They can help you understand complicated information and come to terms with uncertainty or anxiety about the future.

Why you might see a genetic counsellor

You might see a genetic counsellor if:

  • a condition seems to run in your family and there is concern that you or your children might get it
  • a child in your family has a serious problem that affects growth, development or health, and there is concern the problem has a genetic cause
  • you and your partner are closely related and are thinking of having a child
  • you’re pregnant and tests have picked up abnormalities in your baby
  • there is concern you’ve been exposed to chemicals or things in the environment that might cause birth defects.

A counsellor’s most important job is making sure you have all the information you need about possible genetic disorders in your family. The counsellor can also arrange genetic testing.

Your GP is always a good place to start if you’re worried about your health. Your GP can help you decide about seeing a genetic counsellor and help you find someone who’s right for you.

Before going to a genetic counsellor

Before seeing a genetic counsellor, it’s a good idea to find out some information about the following things:

  • Why you’re going to the genetic counsellor: talk with your GP about why you need a referral to a genetic counsellor and whether there’s anything you can do while you’re waiting for the appointment.
  • Waiting lists: how long before you can get an appointment to see the genetic counsellor?
  • Making an appointment: it might take you more than one phone call to make an appointment.
  • Costs: how much will the appointment with the genetic counsellor cost? It might be expensive, so you could check whether you’re eligible for Medicare, private health insurance or other rebates.
  • Locations: find out where you have to go to see the genetic counsellor – for example, a public or private hospital, or consulting rooms. You might have to travel further than you expect, depending on your needs.