Why I Do not Give a Diagnosis at the Beginning of Mental Health Counseling

Avoiding Preconceived Notions: Providing a diagnosis too early can lead to preconceived notions and biases that may hinder the counselor’s ability to fully understand the client’s experiences. The counselor must approach each client with an open mind and without making assumptions based on a diagnosis. Three subconscious processes can be at work in both the counselor and client: priming, confirmation bias, and participant bias.

 Priming is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when exposure to one stimulus influences how we respond to a subsequent stimulus. It involves activating associations or representations in our memory without our conscious awareness, which can have a significant impact on various aspects of the counseling process. Called subliminal priming, it occurs when stimuli influence our cognitive processing without our conscious awareness.

It works by activation of associations or representations in memory just before another stimulus or task is introduced. When we encounter a stimulus, it activates related concepts or information in our memory, making those concepts more accessible and influencing our subsequent thoughts, perceptions, and behaviors.

Participant bias refers to the tendency of participants to respond or behave in a way that aligns with what they believe the counselor desires or expects. It occurs when participants consciously or unconsciously alter their responses or behaviors to match the perceived expectations of the counselor or the desired outcomes. Some common types include acquiescence bias (participants agreeing with statements regardless of their true beliefs), social desirability bias (participants providing socially acceptable responses), and response bias (participants responding inaccurately or falsely to questions)

Confirmation bias refers to the tendency of individuals to selectively seek, interpret, or remember information that confirms their existing beliefs or hypotheses while disregarding or downplaying contradictory evidence. It is a cognitive bias that can influence decision-making, perception, and the formation of beliefs.

Confirmation bias can manifest in various ways:

  • is the tendency to process information by looking for or interpreting information consistent with one’s beliefs.
  • as they tend to focus only on factors that support their beliefs.
  • to seek out or interpret information that supports pre-existing beliefs, expectations, or hypotheses.
  • refers to a preference for seeking confirmation rather than falsification, leading individuals to ignore information that could potentially refute a specified idea.
  • the underlying tendency to notice, focus on, and give greater credence to evidence that fits existing beliefs.
  • may reduce mental conflict and the risk of cognitive dissonance by favoring information that aligns with one’s beliefs.
  • a psychological phenomenon where individuals tend to accept references or findings that confirm their existing beliefs.