Psychiatrists’ attitudes, knowledge, and experience regarding genetics: a preliminary study

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This study is the first survey of a random national sample of US psychiatrists to assess attitudes, knowledge, and clinical experience regarding genetics. We hypothesized that clinicians with more recent genetics training would demonstrate more positive attitudes and greater genetics knowledge and experience than those with less recent training.


A probability sample of US psychiatrists (n = 93) was invited to participate in a mail survey regarding genetic medicine.


Forty-five psychiatrists completed the survey (response rate = 48%). All believed that genetics strongly or moderately influenced a person’s mental health. Respondents expressed positive attitudes toward incorporating genetics into psychiatric practice, but most did not have recent genetics training or experience in referring patients to genetic counselors or ordering genetic tests. Psychiatrists who had genetics training within the previous 5 years had more experience in providing genetic services.


This survey identified areas of strength (positive attitudes about providing genetic services, belief in the heritability of mental illness) and future targets for educational intervention (general genetics, information about testing and counseling resources). The association between recent training and a greater level of clinical genetics experience suggests that educational efforts may be successful in preparing psychiatrists to provide genetic services in the future.

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