When you go to a therapist or a doctor, you are given a diagnosis. Depending on the diagnosis, you may think your situation is no big deal or you could find it worrisome. Diagnoses can be concerning things.
Truth be told, it can be easy for society to see you as a diagnosis, as a label. However, that is a very ‘thin’ description of who you are. All people desire to be loved and accepted, and those needs do not change because of a diagnosis. All people have strengths and gifts as well, and these, too, do not change because of a diagnosis either.
When parents go from doctor to doctor, it can be challenging for them not to focus on their child’s diagnosis. That is understandable because that is the story they are told daily. For example, a teacher might tell a parent: “Your child has problems fitting in at school.” Or adults may see themselves strictly in terms of their diagnosis as well. When talking to a doctor, an adult might focus on the statement, “You have to take this medication for the rest of your life.” Whatever the messages being told, people have difficulties hearing something else besides the limitations of their diagnosis.
Despite these challenges, diagnoses are important in the health fields for many reasons. First, diagnoses help health professionals have an understanding of how to provide care to their patients and clients. Basically the diagnosis helps in the identification and streamlining of treatments, and such processes are for the good of the patient/client. Second, insurance companies often need an official diagnosis in order to reimburse medical expenses.
In my opinion, a diagnosis is just one element of who a person is; therefore, the goal is to try to help parents (and society) create a “thick description” of life with a diagnosis. For instance, instead of thinking how difficult a disability or diagnosis is, it is important to also focus on what brings joy to the family. What do those joyful moments do for the family system? What is the power of community in a family’s life? What gifts do you have and how can we enhance those gifts?
Learning to redefine what it means to have a diagnosis is difficult yet so powerful because by doing so, the label has less control over us and hope can be celebrated. Therapy can help bring perspective to a diagnosis. It can help you see your diagnosis as a part of you but not the whole part. Such a process can prevent a diagnosis from defining who you are. Therapy can help families and individuals remove the stigma from a diagnosis so that they can find strength, hope, and joy in their lives.