Journal of Genetic Counseling

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 228–234 | Cite as

Re-conceptualizing Risk in Genetic Counseling: Implications for Clinical Practice

  • Jehannine C. AustinEmail author
Theory Based Paper


Risk communication is an important component of genetic counseling. However, many authors have noted that after genetic counseling, subjective risk frequently does not match the objective risk provided by the counselor. This inevitably leads to the conclusion that the risk communication process was not “effective”. There has been much discussion about how this problem can be better addressed, such that our clients recall numeric risks more accurately after genetic counseling. This article draws on the risk and probability literature from other fields (including psychology, economics, philosophy and climate change) to deconstruct the concepts of “risk” and risk perception to attempt to expand upon and develop thought and discussion about and investigation of the risk communication process in genetic counseling.


Risk assessment Risk perception Risk estimation Risk communication Probability Clinical genetics Decision making 



This concept for this manuscript was developed as a result of interactions with scholars from a wide variety of disciplines at the UBC Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies—the author thanks the institute’s 2009–2010 cohort of Early Career Scholars. Sincere thanks to Victoria Lemieux and Susan Creighton for their thoughtful comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this manuscript. JA was supported by the Provincial Health Services Authority of BC, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research.


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Copyright information

© National Society of Genetic Counselors, Inc. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of Psychiatry and Medical GeneticsUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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