Genetic Counseling

School of Health and Human Sciences

A Qualitative Study of the Utilization and Outcomes of Personal Counseling for Genetic Counseling Graduate Students
Capstone Project Committee:  Lauren Doyle, MGC, CGC, Sarah Hart, PhD, CGC, Emily Lisi, MS, CGC
The utilization of personal counseling for genetic counseling students is a topic that is understudied, yet has the potential to provide unique advantages for mental health. This qualitative study was conducted to investigate the current use and perspectives of personal therapy in this population. Participants were recruited via email distribution by genetic counseling program directors. A total of nine qualitative interviews were performed, transcribed, and coded for thematic analysis. Topics that emerged from the collection of interviews included stress caused by increased academic expectations, the influence of students’ personality, transparency from their counseling training, stress management strategies, and barriers to participating in counseling. The majority of students did not see a need for the training programs requiring counseling, although many described actual and inferred advantages of speaking with a mental health professional during their training, such as learning new counseling skills, normalization, and developing coping mechanisms. Barriers to initiating counseling included lack of time, cost, and stigma associated with needing therapy for oneself. Recommendations developed from this study include programs having a dedicated conversation about perceptions of therapy and options for participating in it early in genetic counseling programs as well as an increase in awareness of the particular challenges and barriers genetic counseling students face.
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