Journal of Genetic Counseling

, Volume 23, Issue 5, pp 814–823 | Cite as

A Genetic Counseling Intervention to Facilitate Family Communication About Inherited Conditions

  • Clara Gaff
  • Jan Hodgson
Original Research


This paper describes the development and implementation of the first intervention to facilitate family communication of genetic information based on a genetic counseling model of practice. The intervention is telephone-based and therefore designed to complement face-to-face genetic counseling consultations. It was developed by firstly reviewing the literature and a model of genetic counseling practice, leading to definition of seven core principles underpinning the intervention. A counseling framework based on these principles was developed through iterative role playing and review, tested for consistency with good practice and piloted on ten study participants. It was found to be feasible to implement and consistent with good genetic counseling practice. Implementation included training of the genetic counselors who would deliver the intervention as part of a randomized controlled trial. Noteworthy deviations from good genetic counseling practice were observed, with unexpected additional insights into the ‘black box’ of genetic counseling that may have wider implications and would benefit from further investigation. The intervention is currently being evaluated in a randomized controlled trial, to assess its impact on the number of family members attending genetic services.


Family communication Genetic counseling Intervention Randomized controlled trial Model of practice 



The authors would like to thank Loren Plunkett and Jean Paul for transcription of the role plays and pilot calls. Jean Paul also assisted with training of the genetic counselors. Our thanks to the genetic counselors involved for their enthusiasm and participation and to the GIF project steering committee (Jane Halliday, MaryAnne Aitken, Sylvia Metcalfe, Martin Delatycki, Susan Donath, Ingrid Winship and Loane Skene). The authors acknowledge the funding provided by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Project ID 491214 – Communication of genetic information within families (The GIF project).

This work was supported by the Victorian Government’s Operational Infrastructure Support Program.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© National Society of Genetic Counselors, Inc. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Murdoch Childrens Research InstituteMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Department of PaediatricsUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Department of MedicineUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical ResearchMelbourneAustralia

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