When the topic is you: Genetic counselor responses to prenatal patients' requests for self-disclosure

Jessica R. Balcom, Patricia Mc Carthy Veach, Heather Bemmels, Krista Redlinger-Grosse, Bonnie S. Leroy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

A limited amount of research indicates patient requests play a major role in genetic counselors' self-disclosure decisions and that disclosure and non-disclosure responses to patient requests may differentially affect genetic counseling processes. Studies further suggest patient requests may be more common in prenatal settings, particularly when counselors are pregnant. Empirical evidence is limited however, concerning the nature of patient requests. This study explored genetic counselors' experiences of prenatal patients' requests for self-disclosure. Four major research questions were: (1) What types of questions do prenatal patients ask that invite self-disclosure?; (2) Do pregnant genetic counselors have unique experiences with prenatal patient disclosure requests?; (3) How do genetic counselors typically respond to disclosure requests?; and (4) What strategies are effective and ineffective in responding to disclosure requests? One hundred seventy-six genetic counselors completed an online survey and 40 also participated in telephone interviews. Inductive analysis of 21 interviews revealed patient questions vary, although questions about counselor demographics are most common, and patients are more likely to ask pregnant counselors questions about their personal pregnancy decisions. Participants reported greater discomfort with self-disclosure requests during pregnancy, yet also disclosing more frequently during pregnancy. Counselor responses included personal self-disclosure, professional self-disclosure, redirection, and declining to disclose. Factors perceived as influencing disclosure included: topic, patient motivations, timing of request, quality of counseling relationship, patient characteristics, and ethical/legal responsibilities. Disclosure practices changed over time for most counselors. Additional findings, practice implications, and research recommendations are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)358-373
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Genetic Counseling
Volume22
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2013

Keywords

  • Genetic counseling relationship
  • Genetic counselor pregnancy
  • Genetic counselor self-disclosure
  • Prenatal patients

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