Diagnosing for Mental Health Professionals

Coming Soon!  “Ethics and DSM V: Comprehensive Assessment of Perceptual Disturbance”. This is a unique approach to diagnosing mental illness because it focuses on the common factor in all mental disorders: perceptual disturbance. Disturbance in perception is a cornerstone of diagnosing accurately. This continuing educational training also helps participants determine when to discuss the diagnosis with the patient and the hazards of ‘labeling’.

The Importance of Evaluating Perceptual Disturbance and Psychosis

Perceptual Disturbance is perhaps the most important clinical information to collect. In many ways it is the cornerstone of understanding mental disorders. Regardless of your psychotherapeutic approaches, the goal is change in your clients’ perception. This is true for everything from career struggles, developing self-esteem, addictions and severe mental illness. Knowing when to recommend evaluation for psychiatric medication is important. This requires an understanding of when psychosis is treatable with therapy or whether medication is required. Understanding altered perception and psychosis is fundamental to arriving at the correct diagnosis. If you have experience in the assessment of perceptual disturbance, you can diagnose many mental illnesses.

Perceptual Disturbance and Psychosis takes on many forms. Psychosis is observed in not only schizophrenia but schizoaffective, major depression, bipolar disorder, substance or drug induced, delirium, post-partum childbirth, dissociative disorders, head injury, medical disease and many others.

How do I assess non-psychotic perceptual disturbance?

Frequently, a psychosocial evaluation screens for psychotic symptoms but not a range of perceptual disturbance. Since every case is different, you will need to know when to inquire about non-psychotic perceptual problems. A great approach is to assess for perceptual anomalies and if these are significant, assess for psychotic symptoms. This is particularly true when you are in private practice or you work with populations with low rates of severe mental illness as it can facilitate your patient’s comfort with providing truthful and reliable information. Patients with histories of depressive episodes or suicidal thoughts or past attempts can be assessed using this approach.

For example, non-psychotic perceptual disturbance can also allow you to predict in advance a relapse of illness. Perhaps you have learned from experience with your patient that irrational fears, hypersensitivity to sound or other stimulation predicts the onset of a major depressive episode with severe psychosis. This also allows you to intervene proactively.

Modification of the Diagnosis

Unless your patient presents to you with a known diagnosis, you can usually only diagnose based upon current information available at the time of assessment. As you observe your patient over time and monitor symptoms this will render a clearer clinical picture. For this reason, you may later change your diagnosis of the patient. An important factor is whether the psychosis persists with treatment, whether there is partial remission or full remission. Full remission of psychosis occurs when it is substance induced. Full remission is possible with major depression. Full remission is usually not possible with schizophrenia. In this fashion, it is clear the importance of understanding psychosis in diagnosing mental disorders.

Diagnoses are often later modified for patients admitted to inpatient psychiatric treatment because the objective is to evaluate acute symptoms and proceed with admission.


This was an introduction to how developing a framework for understanding perception can be an aid in accurately diagnosing mental disorders.

Eric Groh LPC has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, AceP No. 6921.  Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. Eric Groh LPC is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified.

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