Genetic counsellor Helen Bethell tells us what genetic counselling is all about...


I have been working as a genetic counsellor (on and off) for the last 15 years.  Although a lot of the questions and topics that patients wish to discuss are the same, every session is different!  Typical topics that often come up can be summarised into 4 main areas; collecting information about your family history, assessing your risk and explaining it to you, advising on management and treatment strategy, providing support to you and your family.

Genetic counselling is a difficult thing to pin down…as a genetic counsellor I know quite a lot about genetics, and I use a lot of counselling skills but I am not a counsellor per se.  So, although a genetic counsellor can help you talk through and explore your emotions if this is what you need, you do not have to!  The session is yours and aims to cover whatever it is that you want it to cover.

So what actual happens in a session…. Sessions can be over the telephone or zoom.  At the very start of the session I ask patients if they would be willing to tell me about their journey with GH, so that I can understand more about their experiences and what is important to them.  I guess this is why every session is different, because so is every story.

Some patients what to discuss their own symptoms or ask for advice about where to seek help.  Some may just want to be truly listened to after a traumatic phase or process in being diagnosed or treated.  Others want to talk about their relatives, their children, siblings, or parents.  


(Helen Bethell, Registered Genetic Counsellor 354)