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time posted
Jan 06, 2023

Do I Need A Diagnosis For Therapy To Work?


There is often a misconception that you need to be diagnosed when you attend therapy. This can fill us with discomfort and images of psychological testing, a mental health diagnosis, and someone to prescribe medication. However, therapy and diagnoses are actually very different from this.

A diagnosis is meant to simply to an understanding based on research as to what you are experiencing. It should be something helpful towards regaining control and having a fulfilled life and not something to be worried about or feel like it means there is something wrong with you.

Having a personal interview with a mental health professional to start therapy may lead to a mental health diagnosis. This can be seen through a positive and helpful lens. 

Advantages Of Being Pre-diagnosed

Having a diagnosis can be helpful in many ways, it should not be seen as a label, but rather a way of understanding your own mental health and learning new therapeutic techniques on how to support it.

Insurance Coverage 

A practical advantage of having a diagnosis is that insurance will cover many aspects of your treatment. This insurance coverage is helpful in affording the best support for you. Often aspects of mental health care such as therapy, medication, and psychiatrist visits can be paid for.

A licensed therapist may need to submit this diagnosis for insurance coverage, this legality should not infringe on your right to choose whether you receive the diagnosis or not.

A Name

Having a diagnosis can help you understand what is happening in your mind. Anxiety, depression, other mood disorders can feel overwhelming as diagnoses, however, having the name and the understanding can counteract the overwhelming feeling. 

Having a name and explanation as to what is happening can be helpful and comforting. This can help you process your thoughts and feelings in context.

Correct Support

Knowing your diagnosis will help you get the correct support. Whether this be medication, visits to a doctor or psychiatrist, visits to a licensed therapist, supportive techniques, family support, etc. Your therapy can be tailored to match your individual needs within the context of the diagnosis. For example, therapy for an anxiety diagnosis will most likely include grounding techniques.

You may need to try a range of support strategies to find the ones that work for you. You should feel free to speak to your therapist if you feel that something is not working for you.

Ownership and Empowerment

Being given a diagnosis can take a while to digest and accept. When you have accepted it, this can be an opportunity for you to take ownership of the diagnosis and manage the mental health condition to the best of your ability. This can be empowering, and you gain a sense of control and self-confidence, which is often taken away when it feels like you don’t know what is wrong with you.

Having a diagnosis can provide you with these benefits and more, it comes down to finding support to understand, process, and accept the diagnosis the same way you would if you were diagnosed with arthritis. Neither arthritis or a mental health diagnosis is your fault, both can be managed and controlled.

Problems With Being Diagnosed

Yet there can be some difficulties with getting a diagnosis that must be considered and discussed with your mental health professional.  These disadvantages are a normal part and do not mean that a diagnosis is a bad thing.

An Excuse

At times when given a diagnosis it can become a safe excuse for behavior that is usually frowned upon. This may happen when you don’t take ownership of your diagnosis and feel that it has become a label or the main part of your identity. This is the opposite of empowerment and control and can make you feel overwhelmed by low feelings about yourself and your diagnosis.

A Disease

Sometimes a mental health diagnosis can feel like you are being told you have a disease. Usually diseases are ‘bad’ and need to be ‘fixed’. This can be demotivating and make you feel unkindly toward yourself. A negative view or stigma towards diagnoses can make it difficult to maintain your well being.

Who Diagnoses You

A mental health professional, doctor, or psychiatrist can diagnose you. Each will work from the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual 5th Edition, text revised (DSM-V-TR). Many mental health conditions have overlapping symptoms, this can make accurate diagnosis challenging. 

The symptoms may also change over time, and this may lead to differing opinions on a diagnosis, or a change in diagnosis over time.

Individualized Treatment

Sometimes treatment can be based on the diagnosis and not the individual. This often results in the wrong therapeutic techniques being used for an individual. If you feel that this is happening, then speaking to your therapist is a good idea.

You Don’t Need A Diagnosis For Therapy

Understanding the benefits and drawbacks of having a diagnosis given can help you decide whether you want your therapist to share your diagnosis with you or not. They have to provide a diagnosis to have insurance coverage of your treatments, however, it is in your rights to choose not to know what it is and be treated based on your individual experience.

You don’t need to have a diagnosis to receive therapy or for therapy to work. Rather the way that therapy will work is if you are ready to change something in your life, it might be your perspective, your inner critic, your boundaries, or your approach to challenges. This readiness for change is not diagnosis dependent.

To Wrap Up

A diagnosis, given correctly, should empower and calm you. It should help you understand what you are going through and give you a means to support yourself. A diagnosis should not be a label that is placed on you to define who you are.

If you feel that you are ready for change, diagnosis or not, then reach out to One Life Counselling and Coaching to contact someone who will start this journey with you.

I am the founder of One Life Counselling and Coaching LTD and I am honored to lead a team of professional psychologists, psychotherapist’s and life coaches who dedicate their professional lives to helping people to elevate their mindsets, evolve their beliefs and learn to thrive in the present moment.
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