One decision clients may wish to make is whether or not to request a formal mental health diagnosis. This is something that we can discuss together, and cautiously so, if even at all. I NEVER diagnose individuals unless they are part of the diagnosis process and feel the diagnosis makes perfect sense and is honest. However, it is important to remember that a formal diagnosis is a label that sticks with you as part of your medical history, so one may not wish to have a formal evaluation. For example, there is a difference between working through a little depression and suffering from clinically significant Major Depressive Disorder. The important thing is to discover a language, while at the same time not labeling and wounding a person as having a mental disorder, which can carry a stigma. One may also wish to be re-diagnosed to remove or change a diagnosis, such as when things are better or past misdiagnoses have been made, and the diagnosis gets in the way. People often wonder “what they have” and while that is okay, I rather they focus on “what is in my way” and grow beyond the found obstacles. Ironically, sometimes the diagnosis itself is the obstacle (e.g., depressed about having been diagnosed with Major Depression). All this said, when mental health issues become highly distressing or disconcerting, then a diagnosis can indeed be beneficial. I think this is especially true for more ingrained ways of cognitive structuring, such as autism or congenital schizophrenia.
To be clear too, I don’t diagnose all mental disorders that are defined by the American Psychiatric Association, though technically I am licensed to do so. Issues such as neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g. intellectual disability) or neurocogntive disorders (e.g., Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s) are more suited to medical doctors and psychologists that make use of highly specialized assessment tools, SPECT scans and other brain imaging equipment. I am always happy to work through a preliminary diagnosis screening though if it is helpful, for example in order to prompt further evaluation from schools or medical doctors.
Reference for Mental Health Diagnoses
- Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.), American Psychiatric Association (2013)