fbpx You are not the diagnosis

I have never been accused of being normal.  It’s okay, I consider this a good thing.  Not that I have anything against normal – it’s just that, well, I don’t find much about being normal very desirable. Webster himself describes normal as being “characterized by average intelligence or development.”  He also describes normal as “occurring naturally.”

Isn’t this a contradiction?  If being above average intelligence (or below) occurs naturally, wouldn’t that then be normal? This reminds me of the concept of “healthy” in the world of mental health.  Therapists, like myself, are trained to look for “disorders.” Despite this training, I do not see others as “disordered.”  Actually, I find that word offensive.  A disorder is considered a disruption in “normal” functioning.  Remember, Webster says, “normal” is defined as “occurring naturally.”

Who, exactly, gets to decide what is normal functioning?

Think about this. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM – now on the 5th edition), is the psychiatric bible used by clinicians to diagnose clients. Until 1973, homosexuality was listed as a disorder in the DSM.  The good news here is that I was only mentally ill with homosexuality until I was seven.  By my 8th birthday, I no longer suffered from this disorder because it was removed from the DSM (though not entirely until 1986).  Like magic, isn’t it?

You are not a diagnosis anymore than you are your hair. Just like hair, you grow, you change, and some things you can influence, like how clean it is, how you will style it, etc. Some things you can’t control, like the texture or speed with which it grows. That’s how life is. We have some things we can control, and many, many things we can not. Nothing is static. We are constantly changing and everything is transient. One way today, another tomorrow.

A diagnosis describes a cluster of symptoms that you are experiencing or expressing at a given point in time. Your thoughts, behaviors and feelings are clustered into easy-to-label “conditions” or “disorders.” This diagnosis is then used to justify to insurance companies why they should pay for helping you address this disorder. The problem is, the whole system is made up. Literally, it is decided by a group of people what is “normal,” and “healthy” behavior, and what is not. Clearly, given the multiple versions of the DSM over the years, and the changes in what is viewed as a disorder and what is not, this is not a reliable manual on which to assess one’s health and emotional wellbeing.

In my world, people do not have a disorder, they have a story.  Part of that story might include distressing thoughts, poor coping skills, feelings of depression, unwanted behaviors, and other concerns that could easily be found in the DSM.  However, those are just aspects of the story – not the whole story, and certainly not the whole of who you are.

Here is my philosophy.

When I take the time to know you –
then who and how you are makes sense to me.
But, only always.

This, along with my other posts, may sound very contradictory for a licensed counselor. However, those who work with me know that my orientation is much more closely aligned with the field of coaching rather than counseling.  While coaching gets a bad rap for being an unlicensed field where anyone can hang a shingle and call themselves a coach, for me, it is simply the most relateable word I can come up with for now, to describe my style of working with people who are not attached to a diagnosis (which is most of my clients).

At the heart of coaching is a clear focus on what it is you desire. This may include how you wish to feel, what you wish to experience, and what it is you long for in this life, this job, this friendship, this relationship or this anything else. With this clarity, we begin the work of mapping out your journey from where you are to that desired place.  Sometimes there are obstacles we will notice along the way (both internally and externally), other times there is a lack of awareness (which none of us can force – we can not see ourselves as clearly as others can see us), and sometimes there are better, more effecient ways to achieve our goals than the ones we are using. At times a new skill, habit or behavior will be a part of that journey. It’s a unique and personal journey to travel from where you are in this life to where you wish to be in this life, and it is the most rewarding thing ever to be invited on your journey to serve as a helper in this process.

Coaching involves education, observation, mentoring, encouraging, supporting and guiding, much like counseling does, however, there is one big difference. We are not putting our focus on problems, we are putting our focus on desires, with the belief that what you wish to experience, deeply, truly wish to experience, in this life is within your reach.

My hope is that I can be a part of your journey that contributes to your feeling more joyful, more loved and loving, more connected, more fulfilled, more seen, heard and understood, and everything else you wish to experience in this life. Cheers to already being enough. Cheers to allowing yourself and your challenges to be okay. Cheers to finding new pathways to better feeling places. Cheers to humans helping humans and not “those who know” helping “those who don’t.”  We are all in this together.