Understanding psychiatrist perceptions surrounding psychiatric genetics and genetic counseling services

The first specialty psychiatric genetic counselling (PGC) service began in Vancouver, Canada in 2012. Shortly thereafter, a genetic counselor in San Francisco, CA started a private PGC practice. Clear benefits of PGC have been demonstrated, including increases in empowerment and self-efficacy among individuals with mental illness. Despite the availability and benefits of PGC, the majority of physicians are not referring patients to the private PGC practice in San Francisco. Until now, no literature has focused on psychiatrist perceptions of PGC services. This qualitative study examined the perceptions and beliefs of psychiatrists on the potential challenges and benefits of PGC services for individuals with mental illness. Semistructured telephone interviews were used to explore the experiences and perceptions of ten psychiatrists about psychiatric genetics and the potential clinical utility of PGC. Analysis of interview transcripts revealed themes related to psychiatrists: 1) perceiving PGC as a potentially beneficial service in the future, but with significant limitations in the present; 2) requiring more information about PGC above and beyond current marketing methods; and 3) giving limited priority to discussing and arranging PGC referrals because they (the psychiatrists) feel they already provide genetic counseling to their patients. Identifying both conceptual and practical barriers to PGC services provides guidance for development of strategies to overcome these barriers in the growing field of PGC services around the world.