Why Diagnose?

How does the purpose of making a clinical psychological diagnosis relate to the philosophy of positive psychology?

Historically, there has been a primary focus on human weaknesses (Lopez, Ciarlelli, Coffman, Stone and Wyatt, 2000) where clinical diagnosis has been viewed as an illness ideology that has now, outlived its usefulness (Maddux, 2002). The benefits of making a clinical diagnosis, is that it helps identify a potential course of treatment and assists in determining referrals and additional services (Gehart, 2014). A clinical diagnosis also helps the therapist to best keep the client and public safe, for example, by identifying self-harm and mutiliation, individuals and support systems have a better understating of how to intervene, know what to expect and how to keep themselves safe.

A change in ideology must begin with a change in language and how we talk about human behavior and problems, there needs to be change from illness ideology to positive psychology (Maddux, 2002).

Positive psychology advocates that we change the focus from a disease model, that involves a balanced approach to repair and intervention, to a model that that emphasizes existing positive qualities and nurtures growth, competence and holistic well-being (Mcloughlin and Kubick, 2004). A positive psychology movement enables our views of health and human adaptions and adjustment to be restructured and reorientated, as to not be grounded in illness (Maddux, 2002).

From a clinical perspective, instead of measuring what is missing or wrong, clinicians needs to be tapping into hope which maps the clients assets and ultimately facilitates change in the individual (Lopez, et al., 2000). Hopeful people remain resilient when faced with adversity and abnormal circumstances and are then able to face and handle daily hassles and some traumatic events while pursuing and maintaining important goals (Lopez, et al., 2000). As suggested by Gehart (2014), a Recovery Model of diagnosis needs to be prioritized when making a diagnosis, as the model de-emphasises diagnostic labelling and places emphasis on psychosocial functioning. Much like the 10 components of the recovery model (Self-direction, individualisation, empowerment, holistic, non-linear, strengths-based, peer-support, respect, responsibility and hope), positive psychology emphasizes well-being, satisfaction, happiness, interpersonal skills, perseverance, talent, wisdom, and personal responsibility (Maddux, 2002).

A clinical diagnosis can become one of many viable truths which is contextualized by social discourse and relationships (Gehart, 2014). A diagnosis allows for a range of possible uses but it is important that a diagnosis should not inform an individuals identity or be the driving forces behind treatment.


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