Why does the “mental health” system use diagnoses? Don’t diagnoses help us understand “mental illness?” Can doctors predict behavior?

In the “mental health” system, “mental health” professionals diagnose their “patients” as having one or more of a list of recognized “mental illnesses.” We believe, by contrast, that each individual’s struggles are defined by their life experiences and cannot be categorized without devaluing the uniqueness of that individual’s situation. Using a diagnosis keeps the “mental health” worker from considering information unique to that individual that does not fit with the diagnosis and therefore limits their ability to understand and assist a client. Our approach instead is to understand how each person’s unique hurts have held them back, and provide resource to allow for discharge. Being thought about and counseled as a unique individual lets people access deep and early hurts and discharge distresses fully.

Historically, when all humans lived in tribes, people got help to heal severe emotional and physical difficulties from wise tribal members. Later, as medical science developed, doctors were venerated because they cured physical illnesses. Emotional difficulties were not handled by doctors. When psychiatry developed, psychiatrists had to fight to become legitimized as doctors. Creating a list of conditions that could be diagnosed helped bring that about. However, we think that medicalizing human problems doesn’t work, because people are unique individuals that don’t fit into categories. The US health insurance system requires “mental health” workers to assign a code number to someone’s emotional difficulty in order for the workers to be paid. Thus, assigning a label to a person becomes not only the way that insurance works, but the way that the whole system works. Labeling in this way may seem to make it possible to have people’s problems be quantifiable, but it defies human nature, which does not function like a biological disease that can be generally predicted. Labeling also provides pat answers. A much more thoughtful exploration is necessary to lead the person to the discharge that will resolve the problem.

Psychiatric diagnoses are harmful to individuals in that they tend to focus a person on “what’s wrong” rather than on what positive steps can be taken. Also dangerous is the “self-fulfilling prophecy” phenomenon. Once labeled, a person may accept the label as describing who they are, rather than work to heal completely from his or her hurts.

While people do tend to repeat distressed behavior (because of what we have called patterns), a person’s future behavior can never be predicted with certainty. The human mind is capable of functioning in intelligent ways in spite of irrational pulls. As people discharge, the effects of patterns are weakened. If people use Re-evaluation Counseling well, the process assists them to gain more and more ability to base their lives on fresh thinking appropriate to the current situation rather than reacting according to how we have been hurt in the past.