‘Diagnosis can turn the fright of chaos into the comfort of the known,

the burden of doubt into the pleasure of certainty,

the shame of hurting others into the pride of helping them,

and the dilemma of moral judgement into the clarity of medical truth.’


The workshop started with an overview of what diagnosis means, how this applies in psychiatric terms and how this differs from physical health conditions. Importantly, there is, at present, no conclusive scientific evidence that mental distress or disturbance is caused by a physical disease process. Psychiatric diagnosis is also very subjective, being based on a psychiatrist’s interpretation of what they hear and observe from the person.

We learnt about the two main psychiatric classification systems – DSM 5 and ICD 11 – which group together sets of symptoms and classifies them as disorders. We looked at the strengths and weaknesses of these systems as well as underlying influences eg. the pharmaceutical industry.

We considered the psychosocial consequences and subjective meanings of diagnosis – how a diagnosis can affect how a client sees themselves and their behaviours, what kind of help they feel they need, how other people view them and what judgements we as counsellors may make. Consequences can be positive, negative or a mixture of both and can influence relationships, education and employment.

In considering the relevance of psychiatric diagnosis for counselling we discussed what factors should influence whether we feel a client is suitable for us to work with, including both client and counsellor factors.

Rachel’s open, honest, relaxed and informed manner was appreciated alongside her intimate knowledge of both psychiatry and counselling, giving her a unique perspective on the subject. The workshop was generally felt to be both challenging and personally validating with many feeling a renewed confidence in working with this client group.

Helen Gordon