Schizophr Bull. 2012 Oct 27. [Epub ahead of print]
Evaluating Genetic Counseling for Family Members of Individuals With Schizophrenia in the Molecular Age.
SourceClinical Genetics Research Program, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
AbstractBackground:Myths and concerns about the extent and meaning of genetic risk in schizophrenia may contribute to significant stigma and burden for families. Genetic counseling has long been proposed to be a potentially informative and therapeutic intervention for schizophrenia. Surprisingly, however, available data are limited. We evaluated a contemporary genetic counseling protocol for use in a community mental health-care setting by non-genetics professionals. Methods: We used a pre-post study design with longitudinal follow-up to assess the impact of genetic counseling on family members of individuals with schizophrenia, where molecular testing had revealed no known clinically relevant genetic risk variant. We assessed the outcome using multiple measures, including standard items and scales used to evaluate genetic counseling for other complex diseases. Results: Of the 122 family members approached, 78 (63.9%) actively expressed an interest in the study. Participants (n = 52) on average overestimated the risk of familial recurrence at baseline, and demonstrated a significant improvement in this estimate postintervention (P < .0001). This change was associated with an enduring decrease in concern about recurrence (P = .0003). Significant and lasting benefits were observed in other key areas, including increased knowledge (P < .0001) and a decreased sense of stigma (P = .0047). Endorsement of the need for genetic counseling was high (96.1%). Conclusions: These results provide initial evidence of the efficacy of schizophrenia genetic counseling for families, even in the absence of individually relevant genetic test results or professional genetics services. The findings support the integration of contemporary genetic counseling for families into the general management of schizophrenia in the community.
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