Reinforce, reframe or remove? What should psychologists do with diagnostic labels?

Author: Klair Norman
Published: 2017
Publication: Assessment and Development Matters

Over the past 50 years, the range of diagnostic labels has relentlessly expanded, through iterations of psychiatric diagnostic systems like DSM and ICD, underpinned by a massive medicalisation engine, criticised for overpowering alternative interpretations and discourses (Solvag, 2007). As a result, there has been a startling increase in the number of individuals labelled as having a disorder or disability (Frances & Batstra, 2013). This has led to much debate over the utility and validity of diagnostic labels. For some, labels are seen as desirable commodities, enabling more timely and effective services. Others argue that labels work against the inclusion agenda by positioning the problem ‘within-person’, stigmatising diversity and further marginalising those with difficulties. Surrounded by this controversy, psychologists are faced with the dilemma of deciding how to shape their own professional choices and actions. This article considers arguments for three possible options.

Norman, K (2017) What should psychologists do with diagnostic labels? Assessment and Development Matters. 9(4), 7-10.

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