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Addressing psychiatric disorders in genetic counseling

Sullivan, Kaitlin (2019) Addressing psychiatric disorders in genetic counseling. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Psychiatric genetic counseling (PGC) is a growing specialty. With discoveries of new treatments, improved risk calculations, elucidation of genes associated with psychiatric disorders, and rising public interest in mental health, the occasion for genetic counselors to address psychiatric genetics in sessions will likely become more common. Several papers have addressed the utility and efficacy of PGC. Additionally, studies have shown that experience with mental illness, training for psychiatric genetic counseling, stigma towards individuals with mental illness, and concerns about communicating complex information all affect genetic counselors’ attitudes and practices regarding psychiatric genetics. It is important to determine whether and how nonpsychiatric genetic counselors employ it to determine what information would most enhance practices and how best to disseminate that information.
This study looked at how exposure, training, and resources influence genetic counselors’ practices and confidence by surveying 108 members of the National Society of Genetic Counselors about their current practices, what factors influence those practices, and what resources or information would benefit patient care. The majority of counselors indicated they have never seen a patient whose primary indication was a psychiatric condition (n=68), referred a patient to a psychiatric genetic counselor (n=88), disclosed secondary findings related to a psychiatric condition (n=83), or ordered genetic testing primarily for a psychiatric disorder (n=87).
These findings indicate that although dedicated clinics are being developed and interest is rising, PGC is not used by the majority of genetic counselors. Nevertheless, recent graduates of genetic counseling programs were more likely to have attended a training program that addressed psychiatric genetics and were more confident in their knowledge of psychiatric genetics, indicating that changes in the field of genetic counseling and individual experience in the field may affect familiarity, confidence, and practice. This study demonstrates that development of training programs, resources, and educational opportunities may increase adoption of psychiatric genetic counseling practices, potentially improving care of patients with mental illnesses. Caring for those with mental illness is an important focus in public health, and development of policies, guidelines, and provider resources can be informed by this study’s assessment of factors involved in PGC decisions.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Sullivan, Kaitlinkms335@pitt.edukms335
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Thesis AdvisorDurst,
Committee MemberFinegold,
Committee MemberWalano,
Committee MemberNimgaonkar,
Date: 26 September 2019
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 30 July 2019
Approval Date: 26 September 2019
Submission Date: 3 August 2019
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 96
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Public Health > Genetic Counseling
Degree: MS - Master of Science
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: genetic counseling, psychiatric genetics, psychiatry, continuing education, survey
Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2019 16:52
Last Modified: 27 Sep 2019 16:44


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