The different facets of “culture” in genetic counseling: A situated analysis of genetic counseling in Hong Kong

Olga Zayts, Hannah Shipman, Jasmine L.F. Fung, Anthony P.Y. Liu, Sit Yee Kwok, Anne C.H. Tsai, Tak Cheung Yung, Brian H.Y. Chung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


In this article, we problematize the concept of “culture” in genetic counseling. With globalization and increased mobility of both genetic professionals and clients, there is an increased acknowledgement of the impact of “culture” on a counseling process. There is, however, little agreement on what “culture” is. The essentialist understanding that has long been dominant in the medical literature views culture as a set of shared beliefs, attitudes and practices among a group of people. Such an approach does not account for the individual differences and the dynamic nature of genetic counseling encounters. Following Zayts and Schnurr (2017), we use the distinction between two orders of culture: culture1 that refers to the static, generalized understanding of culture that is external to the specific context, and culture2, an analytic concept that denotes dynamic enactments of culture, emerging in the interaction. We use empirical data from genetic counseling sessions to illustrate these different facets of culture and to consider how and why speakers draw on them. The clinical implications of the study include highlighting the importance of cultural awareness among counselors, including cultural self-awareness, and demonstrating how authentic interactional data could be used to enhance cultural training in genetic counseling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-195
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Medical Genetics, Part C: Seminars in Medical Genetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • cultural awareness
  • culture
  • discourse analysis
  • empirical data
  • genetic counseling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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