, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 226-237
Date: 10 Oct 2012

“I Didn’t Know It Existed Before You Called”: Protestant Clergy Experience, Education and Perceptions Regarding Genetics

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Despite the intrinsic role religious/spiritual (hereafter, R/S) beliefs have in patient clinical decision-making and crisis coping, there is little research exploring the relationship that exists between clergy (professionals who provide R/S counsel and guidance) and genetic counseling patients. This qualitative, exploratory study was designed to explore Protestant clergy (N = 8) perceptions of and experience with genetics-related issues. Data analysis revealed that a wide range of R/S perceptions regarding genetics-related issues exist within Protestantism, Protestant clergy have a basic understanding of genetic testing and conditions, and while directive counseling is inherent to Protestant clergy counseling, there appears to exist two opposing styles: unbiased and biased. Based on this information, there are two main implications for genetic counseling clinical practice. First, R/S assessments need to be increasingly implemented into genetic counseling sessions, so that the psychosocial needs of patients with specific R/S beliefs can be identified and addressed. An increase in R/S assessments may be accomplished by increased exposure in genetic counselor training, continuing education opportunities, and by establishing relationships with board-certified, professional chaplains. Second, genetic counselors can influence the genetic education and experience of clergy by raising awareness within their own R/S assemblies. Doing so can also serve to further educate genetic counselors in the R/S beliefs of their own traditions, thus increasing sensitivity, empathy and the quality of care provided.