This is a pretty important question for people seeking needed help from a therapist, psychiatrist, or any "mental health" professional. Anyone who receives compensation for 'mental health' services from their insurance company must be diagnosed with one of these 'disorders' in order to qualify.
Some people find it helpful to receive a diagnosis, as it helps them feel less confused about what's been troubling them. For psychiatrists and some (NOT ALL) therapists, diagnoses provide a roadmap for treatment.
All qualified 'disorders' (depression, PTSD, OCD, psychoses...) are defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, psychiatry's dictionary of diagnoses, recently published in its 5th edition -- the DSM-V. Every updated volume gets bigger, with more and more diagnoses added -- which raises a few questions, and about which I'll share a recent article (see below).
How (or if) diagnoses are used by a therapist varies a great deal. For psychiatrists, diagnoses determine which drug(s) are prescribed. Since therapists don't prescribe drugs, the way they use 'mental disorder' diagnoses depends entirely on how they view their job, as well as whether or not they're billing insurance companies for client consultation.
The history of the DSM is available online -- along with lots of opinions and questions (professional and otherwise) about how it got put together, what it means that we have one, why it keeps changing -- and getting bigger... and more.
I believe therapy is a needed service that can be helpful, uplifting -- and even life-saving. I also think people receiving psychiatric help and/or therapy have a right to know basic facts about the economics and politics of the health system that may be participating in their care.
As a narrative therapist, I believe every client has the right to be the primary author of their own life story. How to use the DSM-V in that context, in a way that's helpful to clients, is of paramount concern for me.
Here are some thoughts and questions about the latest version of the DSM-V. Depending on your provider, the DSM-V may play a role in your treatment, especially if medical insurance helps pay for it. I would be extremely interested in your opinions!
Rochelle is a licensed Marriage and Family Counselor, mindfulness instructor, and personal consultant. She hopes this blog will help shed light on some of the ideas that inspire her in her work with people.