Journal of Genetic Counseling

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 226–237

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


    • Department of Pediatrics, Division of Medical GeneticsUniversity of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
  • Judy Ragsdale
    • Director of Research and Education, Department of Pastoral CareCincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center
  • Lisa Vaughn
    • PediatricsCincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center
  • Daniel Grossoehme
    • Division of Pulmonary Medicine, Department of Pastoral CareCincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center
Original Research

DOI: 10.1007/s10897-012-9538-2

Cite this article as:
Lemons, J., Ragsdale, J., Vaughn, L. et al. J Genet Counsel (2013) 22: 226. doi:10.1007/s10897-012-9538-2


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.


Genetic counselingGeneticsClergyProtestantReligious beliefsSpiritual beliefs

Supplementary material

10897_2012_9538_MOESM1_ESM.docx (25 kb)
ESM 1(DOCX 24 kb)

Copyright information

© National Society of Genetic Counselors, Inc. 2012