The Adapt Clinic, the first psychiatric genetic counselling clinic in the world, offers a unique, biological approach to understanding mental illness that helps people understand their illness and empowers them to take control of their mental health.
While there is no genetic test for psychiatric or mental health disorders, genetic counsellors can look at clients’ family history to offer them and their families a better understanding of why they might have mental health problems, including what has been caused by genetics and what has been caused by social stressors such as a client’s environment and experiences.
By looking at the potential causes, genetic counselling can help patients adapt to the medical and psychological effects of their illness, making them feel better equipped to participate in treatment and get well. They’ll also better understand the risks they face, as well as the risks that their children or other family members have of developing mental health problems.
Understanding illness in this way can help alleviate guilt, shame, and fear related to mental illness. It can also provide hope – a child of a parent with schizophrenia, for example, will not necessarily develop schizophrenia themselves, given mental health conditions are not entirely caused by genes. While one can inherit a vulnerability to mental illness, they do not automatically inherit the illness itself.
In addition to discussing family history and genetics, genetic counselling often includes self-care strategies that help protect mental health and increase resiliency. For some, it might include meditation; others might benefit from spending time with a pet. Ultimately, genetic counsellors help people find protective strategies that will work best for them.