Dual Diagnosis or Doubly Gifted?

DSCF7608Thoughts turn to language lately. Psychology gives us ideas about treating illness. That is good and OK at times. But then, once you know “what you got” you tend to want to learn “how to live with it.” Not in negative terms. You want to learn the positive. The strength. The capacity. The giftedness.

We have words like dual diagnosis. A dreaded term for many. And co-morbid condition. Sounds like a double death wammy to me. Might as well say I am rancid and chuck me into the compost heap! Well, language is everything, after all…

Often and over the years I have found great joy in doing a review of a client’s situation and past diagnosis – and then turning that history on its head. How do I turn things around? By looking at what is possible, what remains unsupported, and what can be improved in the views of the person, their family, and their support systems. Often it takes a creative and arms-length perspective like mine to open up possibilities no one has considered before. That is the beauty of effect educational-based solution-focused therapeutic work.

This pragmatic therapeutic and educational approach is what really excites me. I did not want to be the person doing the diagnostic testing or looking at what medications are necessary. My role is about helping people on a daily basis to cope and to thrive as best they can with all the skills and gifts they possess.

One time many years ago a senior practitioner was very negative about my work. The person challenged things at every step. To help them learn, I allowed them to get in the way and stick their feet in their mouth. In the end, that person turned around and had a tiny bit of humanity and humility. They asked for advice on how to take such a positive supportive and non-clinical approach that is still extremely, and even more so, professional, practical, and wise. We call it best practice actually. And we call it evidenced based practice. But you might be gob smacked to realize how rare the phenomenon actually remains in today’s world.

All of this was a big revelation for the therapist that got turned around. We do not have to speak big words to support people. We don’t need to look smart to actually be effective. We can in fact resist clinical language, and reframe negative clinical views, right at their origins. By doing this, we set a path that is less heavy laden. We often free up energy for change and positive support.

People are worthy of more respect than a “co-morbid label.” If the label pays for services, so be it. But don’t shove clinical language in my face that is largely self-serving of a system and a culture of professionalism. Don’t use the idea of professionalism as a weapon to bash people on the heads. When we can channel funding sources into genuine services that make a world of difference – why would therapists continue such counter productive practices?

Just saying. It makes sense to me.

Joseph Bowers PhD is a senior Psychotherapist and Behaviour Support Specialist registered with the National Disability Insurance Scheme. He works from Armidale NSW Australia for the New England region. His consultant services are now available online distance. Visit the Book Now page for details.

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