Isaacs ’18M Receives Genetic Counseling Award to Research Counselor-Patient Alliances

September 13, 2017 Jennifer Retter

Genetic Counseling’s Jessica Isaacs ’18M received a 2017 Jane Engelberg Memorial Fellowship (JEMF) Student Research Award for a project geared toward strengthening counselor-patient relationships.

In her proposal, “Potential Methods to Strengthen the Counselor-Patient Alliance in a Genetic Counseling Session: Nonconscious Priming and Empathetic Phrasing,” Isaacs highlighted her interest in “priming,” or exposing research subjects to stimuli and environmental triggers that elicit emotions. Participants in Isaacs’ study, for example, will view images that evoke empathy or “non-empathy” before being shown clips of a genetic counseling session intended to prime similar emotions. In response, subjects will be asked to rate the genetic counselor's level of empathy and answer questions about the session.

“I surmise that participants who are primed with empathy conditions will give the genetic counselor higher empathy ratings and retain more information about the session,” said Isaacs. “In that case, successful priming would support the notion that the genetic counselor-patient alliance contributes to improved counseling sessions.”

Isaacs will develop her project alongside Lisa Kessler, MS, CGC, assistant professor of Genetic Counseling, and Dr. Steven Robbins, professor and chair of Psychology, whose own study on priming and therapeutic alliance will be strengthened by Isaacs’ research.

The JEMF Advisory Group of the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) considers exceptional genetic counseling students enrolled in accredited programs for this competitive award. Isaacs, the second Arcadia University student to receive a JEMF Student Research grant, will be formally recognized at the NSGC Annual Education Conference in Columbus, Ohio from Sept. 13 to 16.

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