Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Patients' Recommendations for Genetic Counselors: A Qualitative Investigation.

Published: March 21, 2012

Abstract

Gay, lesbian, and bisexual (GLB) individuals comprise a growing patient population in genetic counseling. However, only one article from a genetic counseling journal provides empirical data on GLB patients’ genetic counseling experiences and genetic counselor attitudes and practices regarding GLB patients. The present study, an extension of the aforementioned article, gathered further information about patients’ genetic counseling experiences through semi-structured telephone interviews. Twelve of the previous study’s 29 patient respondents (n = 10 lesbian women, n = 1 gay man, n = 1 bisexual woman) participated. Interview questions concerned the use of medically inclusive forms, factors influencing patient disclosure, counselors’ ability to relate to them, and their expectations of genetic counselors. Inductive analysis of the interviews yielded seven themes: 1) Medically inclusive forms with gender neutral terms are important; 2) Genetic counselor ability to relate to a GLB person depends more on the relationship established during the session and less on external symbols; 3) The presence of GLB-friendly symbols increases comfort when disclosing one’s orientation; 4) Inclusion of the patient’s partner is important and best done by encouraging their active participation in sessions; 5) When GLB patients disclose their orientation, they expect to be treated like any other patient; 6) Providers should ask about orientation if medically pertinent and the remaining discussion should take orientation into consideration; and 7) When a provider inquires about orientation it should be done in a safe and appropriate way. Illustrative quotations, genetic counseling practice implications, and research recommendations are presented.

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