Genetic counselors

Need help making sense of your genes? Genetic counselors can help, and Genetic Alliance has the guide for you. Check out Making Sense of Your Genes: A Guide to Genetic Counseling.

To find a genetic counselor in your area, visit the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC).

The National Society of Genetic Counselors answers your questions about genetic counselors and NSGC.

What Is a Genetic Counselor?

A genetic counselor is a kind of genetic specialist. Genetic counselors are part of a healthcare team. Their role is to help you understand and make decisions about genetic testing, genetic conditions and related issues. These may include medical and emotional concerns for you and your family. Genetic counselors can provide information and answer questions about:

  • The science behind genetic conditions
  • Your risk for genetic disease
  • Genetic testing
  • Management and prevention of genetic conditions
  • Available resources

When you meet with a genetic counselor, he or she will take your personal and family health history to help better understand your risk for having a genetic condition. Overall, a genetic counselor can help you and your family make informed decisions. A genetic counselor also can educate people caring for you, including your family and doctors.

Types of Genetic Counselors

There are several different kinds of genetic counselors. Some specialize in certain types of diseases, such as cancer. Others focus on specific populations like children.

Prenatal genetic counselors work with:

  • Couples who are thinking about having a child
  • Families who are already expecting a new baby

They can assess the baby’s risk of having a genetic condition. For more information, see pregnancy related screening and testing.

Pediatric genetic counselors work with children and their families. Usually these children have:

  • A known or suspected genetic condition
  • A birth defect
  • An abnormal newborn screening result
  • A physical or developmental delay

Cancer genetic counselors help people with a personal or family history of cancer.

General genetic counselors work with people of all ages. General genetic counselors see children, adults or families with:

  • A known or suspected genetic condition
  • A birth defect