Can Therapists Diagnose Mental Disorders?

December 13, 2021
Mental Disorders
Can Therapists Diagnose Mental Disorders?

People often assume that psychological diagnosis is part of therapy. But what is the difference between a therapist, a psychiatrist, and a psychologist, and who can diagnose mental illness? For many people, they interchange the terms therapist, psychologist, and psychiatrist, but in truth, these are three different and distinct professions. Following are the differences between the three professions:

  • A therapist: provides mental health services and is required to hold a master’s degree and approval from licensing boards to practice these services. The answer to ‘can therapists diagnose mental disorders?’ is yes. These professionals also create treatment plans for their patients.
  • A psychiatrist: specializes in the prevention, study, diagnosis, and treatment of developmental, behavioral, and mental issues. These professionals focus on chemical imbalances of the brain and diagnose mental disorders. Psychiatrists can assess both the physical and mental effects of a disorder.
  • A psychologist: studies mental processes and behaviors. Their area of expertise includes cognitive and emotional processes and how a person interacts with other people and their environment.

While these three professions are distinctly different, they do often work together to help diagnose and treat mental disorders.

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Diagnosing Mental Health Disorders

Diagnosing mental health disorders typically requires three steps:

  • The first step is to have a physical exam by your doctor to eliminate a physical problem that could be related to your symptoms.
  • The exam is to eliminate physical reasons for your symptoms which can include lab tests to screen for drugs, alcohol, or thyroid function.
  • The third step is to meet with a therapist or psychologist to talk about your feelings, thoughts, symptoms, and behaviors. Can therapists diagnose mental disorders? Yes, with the help of a questionnaire you will fill out and by talking to you about your symptoms.

How can therapists diagnose mental disorders? They take the effort and time to get an accurate diagnose, so they can provide you with an appropriate treatment plan. It may be difficult to determine the mental illness you are suffering from, but with the information provided by you, and an understanding of your symptoms, a diagnosis can be reached.

How Are Psychological Disorders Diagnosed?

How can therapists diagnose psychological disorders? They follow the defined symptoms for mental illness detailed in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statical Manual of Mental Disorder.) This manual was published by the American Psychiatric Association and is used in diagnosing mental health conditions. Following are the main classes for mental illness:

Mental Health Disorders
  • Schizophrenia spectrum and psychotic disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive and related disorders
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Feeding and eating disorders
  • Sleep-wake disorders
  • Gender dysphoria
  • Substance-related or addictive disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Bipolar and related disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Trauma or stressor-related disorders
  • Somatic symptom and related disorders
  • Elimination disorders
  • Sexual dysfunctions
  • Disruptive impulse-controlled disorders
  • Neurocognitive disorders
  • Paraphilic disorders
  • Other mental disorders that do not fall within the above definitions

Can therapists diagnosis mental illness is based on deciding how your symptoms fall into one of the above categories. The treatment plan created will depend on your type of mental illness.

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What Are the Advantages of Diagnosis for Mental Disorder?

Can therapists diagnose mental disorders is based on the manual for the different disorders and their symptoms? The criteria for these diagnoses are updated periodically, and some disorders do get eliminated. It is important to realize that things do change over time. While mental health diagnoses do sometimes become a fixed part of a person, the diagnosis is not always a diagnosis for life. Following are the benefits of an accurate diagnosis:

  • It gives your symptoms a name
  • It allows professionals and other people a shared language when dealing with you
  • It can link you to specific interventions
  • The problems you are experiencing becomes an illness and more recognizable
  • You receive access to specialized services
  • Your symptoms are given a name and you no longer feel alone
  • With a diagnosis, you are given a name that helps explain your symptoms to others

Along with the advantages of diagnosis for mental disorders, there are also risks of diagnosis:

  • Not all clinical assessments are the same. Can therapists diagnose mental health the same as other professionals? They can, but that doesn’t mean they will always agree. You could end up having multiple diagnoses.
  • There is a certain stigma associated with mental health diagnoses.
  • People, especially parents, can over-identify with mental health diagnoses. This over-identification results in reinforcing the problems.
  • With a diagnosis, one is less likely to consider other factors that could be involved.
  • Mental disorder diagnoses are a Western explanation and do not take into account cultural explanations.

What Is the Purpose of Getting a Diagnosis?

Can a therapist diagnose a mental disorder and what would be the purpose of getting a diagnosis? This diagnosis provides your doctor with a picture defining how you remember, reason, feel, and think. To reach a diagnosis, your emotional well-being is taken into consideration along with your physical well-being. The purpose of getting a diagnosis is to understand the problems you are having at home, school, or work. This diagnosis will also differentiate between any physical and mental problems you may be experiencing.

Consumer Rights with Diagnosis for Mental Disorder

People living with mental health diagnoses deserve to be treated with dignity, and some laws protect that right. While society has come a long way, there are still those who are discriminated against in our country. People who live with mental health disorders have the right to make decisions about their treatment and lives.

The MHA (Mental Health America) fights against discrimination and abuse. It is their mission to ensure all those fighting mental health disorders are given:

  • Autonomy and liberty
  • Protection from restraint and seclusion
  • Community inclusion
  • Access to privacy
  • Access to services
Mental Disorders

Does Therapy Help with Depression?

Can therapists diagnose depression and are they able to treat it? Yes, therapists can diagnosis depression and help treat it. The therapy improves your symptoms of depression along with many other mental health conditions. Medication can often reduce some of your symptoms, but therapy will teach you skills to address those symptoms. The skills you learn through therapy will last long after therapy to help you continue improving.

Can Therapists Diagnose Mental Disorders and where to Learn More?

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