This study sought to describe counsellor–counselee interaction during initial cancer genetic counselling consultations and to examine whether the communication reflects counselees’ previsit needs. A total of 130 consecutive counselees, referred mainly for breast or colon cancer, completed a questionnaire before their first appointment at a genetic clinic. Their visit was videotaped. Counselee and counsellor verbal communications were analysed and initiative to discuss 11 genetics-specific conversational topics was assessed. The\ud content of the visit appeared relatively standard. Overall, counselees had a stronger psychosocial focus than counsellors. Counsellors directed the communication more and initiated the discussion of most of the topics assessed. Counselees did not appear to\ud communicate readily in a manner that reflected their previsit needs. Counsellors provided more psychosocial information to\ud counselees in higher need for emotional support, yet did not enquire more about counselees’ specific concerns. New counselees may be helped by receiving more information on the counselling procedure prior to their visit, and may be advised to prepare the visit more thoroughly so as to help them verbalise more their queries during the visit
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