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Early Interv Psychiatry. 2008 May;2(2):80-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-7893.2008.00062.x.

Psychiatric genetic counselling for parents of individuals affected with psychotic disorders: a pilot study.

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Centre for Complex Disorders/UBC Department of Psychiatry, VGH Research Pavilion, Vancouver, BC, Canada.



There has been increasing interest in the concept of applying genetic counselling to psychiatric disorders, but despite its relevance to psychiatric illness, and interest from the target group, there have been no empiric investigations of psychiatric genetic counselling. In a population of unaffected parents of individuals with first episode as well as more chronic psychotic disorders, we aimed to investigate whether psychiatric genetic counselling: is perceived to be useful, could increase understanding of the causes of psychiatric illness and decrease concern about other relatives becoming affected.


Subjects (n=13) participated in a genetic counselling session. The session was a clinical intervention similar to what would be carried out as part of a referral for any disease with a hereditary component, but specific for psychosis. Questionnaires were used to assess (pre-counselling): motivations for attending, concern about other relatives developing psychiatric illness, and (post-counselling) whether the intervention: (i) improved understanding of mental illness; (ii) modified concern about other relatives becoming affected; and (iii) was perceived to be useful.


Desire for knowledge motivated participation. Immediately after the session, and 1 month later >92% and 100% of participants, respectively, felt that the session was useful. Genetic counselling reduced concern about other relatives becoming affected as risks were lower than participants had expected. All participants felt that their understanding of the causes of psychiatric illness had improved through genetic counselling.


Psychiatric genetic counselling may benefit parents of individuals with psychiatric illnesses. Avenues for future research are highlighted.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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