As a professional counselor, diagnosing is necessary and guides how we help people. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is the universal guide on mental illnesses, housing all of the criteria and statistical relevance. The manual is updated every few years, as the mental health field changes and research backs any new findings.
Basic things to know and my thoughts
▪︎ I am a fan of the DSM-5. If I have a question, I can usually find the answer there.
▪︎ Diagnosis allows professionals to figure out how to effectively treat someone and to stay up-to-date with treatment solutions. A diagnosis is a baseline, where we can learn and build information upon, or dig below the baseline to find a root cause to an issue. A counselor can customize the treatment plan, fitting the unique client.
▪︎ Diagnosis is necessary and can be beneficial to the client when the counselor properly explains it. I think that the client should have an understanding and gain insight to what is going on. – Of course, it starts with the client telling the counselor the perceived problem, and they go from there.
▪︎ Sometimes when a person receives a diagnosis, they feel a sense of relief because they have an answer or insight, and a direction towards treatment. On the other hand, does someone really want a diagnosis? No. Because people would rather not have the underlying issue to deal with in the first place. This makes total sense!
▪ The client should understand that this is a GUIDE, not a total reflection of WHO a person is. If the client has a concern over the diagnosis as it relates to their identity, then they should let their counselor know. Sometimes people allow their diagnosis to become a role in their life, a part of their identity. A diagnosis or illness is NOT the person, it is something that they are experiencing. A person is not their anxiety, though anxiety may be front and center, impacting multiple areas of life, but it is not who they are.
Those are my main thoughts, along with some information that I think that people should know about diagnosis. Whether you’re giving or receiving a diagnosis, it’s important to understand it and understand the treatment approach. Above all, the client should take care when it comes to thinking and speaking about a diagnosis because it is what they’re going through, not meant to become part of their identity.