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Assessment and Diagnosis

Opt for a thorough assessment from the beginning

Often, our tendency is to want an immediate diagnosis so we can begin treating as soon as possible, especially because thorough assessments can be expensive!

The problem is, your diagnosis should determine what treatment (and possible medication) you receive, so if you're misdiagnosed from the start, you or your loved one could spend months getting the wrong treatment.

Take time early on to get a clear picture of your condition.
Aim for an assessment that is as thorough as possible.

What to look in an assessment and diagnosis
A broad evaluation

Your clinician should gather information on all aspects of your or your child's emotions and behaviors, not just the ones you would like to address. Focusing on only the problematic behaviors can easily lead to misdiagnosis as the practitioner never learns about other telling symptoms.

A complete history

Be sure to tell your clinician how your or your child's moods and behaviors have changed and evolved over time. Furthermore, your practitioner should look into a genetic history of your family's mental illnesses (diagnosed or otherwise).

Input from multiple sources

A clinician should not collect information from their client exclusively, but also hear from parents, spouses, siblings, teachers, friends, etc. to get a more holistic sense of how their patient functions in multiple settings.

Diagnostic tools

There are many diagnostic tools that therapist use to get a more objective take on their client's behaviors and symptoms. Some of these are specialized to specific mental illnesses. Feel free to ask your therapist what diagnostics they are using and why, and if other diagnostics might also be useful in your situation.

A qualified practitioner

Of course, you should try to find a qualified professional when you are looking to receive a diagnosis that will shape your treatment for at least the next several months. Learn what questions to ask when choosing a therapist >>

Avoid trial and error

Do not accept a trial and error approach to diagnosing mental illness. The diagnosis you receive will have lasting repercussions, so if your clinician writes a prescription or begins a treatment plan without determining a diagnosis, speak up or consider finding another therapist.
Choosing a treatment after a diagnosis
Talk with your therapist about the diagnosis and treatment options.

You should have a long, detailed conversation with your clinician wherein they describe exactly what the diagnosis is, what the major and/or relevant features of that diagnosis are, why they believe that diagnosis is correct in this case, and, if needed, potential alternative diagnoses.

If at any point you feel the diagnosis is not correct, talk to your therapist about possibly reassessing.

Once the client and the support network understand the diagnosis, they will be much more prepared to discuss treatment options.  Both the client and the support network should be included in deciding treatment. Your therapist should be able to explain what treatments are available, what evidence they have, and which he or she thinks would be ideal and why. Furthermore, they should consult heavily with others in this meeting in order to work out which modality will be most successful for your specific situation.

Learn more about discussing and choosing a treatment option >>