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13.09.2017 | Original Research | Ausgabe 1/2018

Journal of Genetic Counseling 1/2018

Referrals to Mental Health Services: Exploring the Referral Process in Genetic Counseling

Journal of Genetic Counseling > Ausgabe 1/2018
Mitchell Cunningham, Mary Morreale, Angela Trepanier
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10897-017-0147-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.


Genetic counselors (GCs) are trained to identify and attend to distress; however, GCs may have patients with distress better managed by mental health professionals (MHPs). To understand the GCs’ role in mental health care, we explored patient cues prompting GCs to refer to MHPs and where GCs thought their expertise in managing patient distress ended. We recruited GCs who have referred a patient for mental health services within the last year to participate in an interview study. A twelve-question interview guide explored GC demographics, reasons for referrals to MHPs, the obstacles to referrals, and perceived differences in counseling competencies between GCs and MHPs. Twenty-eight semi-structured interviews were conducted, recorded, and transcribed verbatim. Transcripts were analyzed using an inductive approach, consisting of reading a subset of transcripts and assigning codes to meaningful segments of text. Common reasons for referral included the GC’s perception of the patient having limited social support, or when the patient indicated significant anxiety related to their at-risk status or recent diagnosis. GCs felt they referred when they were limited by time and training to provide adequate psychosocial services. The participants in this study acknowledged that their scope of practice is limited to short-term, client-centered counseling. Our findings are a first step in helping increase GCs’ awareness of factors that contribute to the referral process to MHPs.

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