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Contributor: Yvette McBride Thomas

Diagnosis— the meaning or interpretation that is derived from assessment information and is usually translated in the form of some type of classification system.

  • A description of a person’s condition and not a judgment of a person’s worth
  • A common misconception is that a classification of mental disorders classifies people, when actually what are being classified are mental disorders that people have. For this reason, the text of DSM-IV…avoids the use of such expressions as ‘a schizophrenic’ or ‘an alcoholic’ and instead uses the more accurate, but admittedly more cumbersome, ‘an individual with schizophrenia’ or ‘an individual with alcohol dependence’” (DSM IV-TR, APA, p. xxxi).
  • Diagnoses are important for:
    1. Insurance company reimbursement
    2. Developing a proper treatment plan
    3. To be able to communicate with other professionals, counselors must be able to speak about, understand, or report a client diagnosis
  • Diagnostic decisions are an evolving process and not a static event.
  • Diagnosis and treatment planning are now such standard components of counseling practice that a failure to diagnose on some level or a lack of professional diagnostic training may be construed as unethical (p. 335).

Nota bene:

  • Dual diagnosis—a substance abuse diagnosis with a co-occurring mental health diagnosis in the same individual.
  • Substance abuse counselors (e.g. LCDCs, ADCs) do not diagnose mental health disorders. We can only diagnose alcohol/drug addiction problems.

Resource: Gladding, S.T. (2011). Counseling: A comprehensive profession (7th ed.). Upper Saddle, NJ: Pearson-Merrill.


  1. Clifford Porter says:

    You might want to add LCDCs do not diagnose mental health disorders, only substance abuse. The DSMV SHOULD BE OUT NEXT YEAR

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