Who is a genetic counselor?

Genetic counselors are health professionals who work as members of a health care team, providing information and support to individuals who may be considering genetic screening or testing, or may be at an increased risk for genetic conditions based on personal or family health histories. For example, a prenatal genetic counselor can help any person going through pregnancy understand their testing options. Genetic counselors have specialized graduate-level training and are certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC).

Does a referral to a genetic counselor mean that I am high-risk?

Not necessarily–there are many reasons as to why a person may be referred to genetic counseling, including discussion of routine testing options, maternal or paternal age, prior testing results, family history, or other findings. Having an appointment with a genetic counselor can help clarify what your individualized risk may be and what next steps are available.

What happens in a genetic counseling appointment?

  • Introduction
    • The session begins with a conversation about the reason for your visit, including the type of information you hope to learn from your visit and any concerns you may have.
  • Family History
    • While the family history may not be the reason for the visit, all decisions about genetic screening or genetic testing should be made in the context of your full family history.
  • Information and Assessment
    • The genetic counselor provides information specific to your situation, such as the chance to have a child with a genetic condition based on your age during pregnancy, or the risk of a possible inherited cancer condition based on a family history of cancer. In any situation, options for testing and screening are reviewed. Genetic counselors will also explain what the potential results might mean and how the health care team works with you to make management recommendations.
  • Decision-Making
    • The genetic counselor will help you understand the options for screening and diagnostic testing and consider whether you would like to pursue them.
  • Support
    • Genetic counselors can address the various feelings that accompany these conversations and decision-making, as individuals may feel overwhelmed by the amount of information they are receiving.
  • Follow-up
    • Genetic counselors may help facilitate the genetic testing process and have a role in reporting results when available. They are also a reliable source for additional information or resources as needed.

Is there anything I should do ahead of time to prepare for my genetic counseling visit?

If possible, we recommend taking a moment before your genetic counseling appointment to:

  • Discuss with your partner/family what type of information you are hoping to get from the appointment
  • Write down all of your questions about screening and testing options
  • Obtain details about your family history. For example, a prenatal genetic counselor will ask you and your partner if either of you have family members with the following:
    • Two or more miscarriages
    • Surgery as a newborn for a birth defect
    • Intellectual disabilities
    • Cancer diagnosed younger than age 50
    • A hereditary or known inherited condition

We also encourage you to bring your partner or other support person (family member or friend) with you to the genetic counseling appointment.

Does seeing a genetic counselor mean I must undergo genetic testing?

Having a genetic counseling consultation does not mean you have to complete genetic testing —the decision to have genetic testing is a personal one and it is not the right choice for everyone. Our goal is to provide clear and relevant information about genetic risk factors to support you in making decisions about testing that align with your goals, values, and healthcare needs.

Does insurance cover the cost of genetic counseling and/or genetic testing?

Many insurance companies cover genetic counseling and genetic testing, though each carrier has different criteria for coverage. If you have questions regarding your specific plan, we recommend checking with your insurance carrier directly or calling us at 713-486-9302.

Are telemedicine appointments with a genetic counselor available?

Telemedicine consultations are available and provide a convenient and easy way to attend a genetic counseling appointment without leaving your home, taking off of work or sitting in traffic. You will see your genetic counselor face to face on your screen and all you need is a reliable internet connection on a phone, tablet or computer. To learn more about logging into a telemedicine visit, click here: Telemedicine Video