As psychotherapists, we use diagnoses to categorize mental illness to assist us in developing and implementing treatment plans based on current up-to-date research. A diagnosis serves as a guiding tool for treatment purposes. It is imperative for us psychotherapists to see our clients for who they are – genuine and unique human beings struggling to stay afloat in the midst of their personal storms. Clients come in struggling with issues pertaining to their mental illness with impacted relationships and consequently the burden of stigma that many endure with their diagnosis. It is helpful to unpack stigma to help you and your client understand it fully. The World Health Organization in 2001 also recognized that it is the largest barrier to treatment engagement.
Jones and colleagues outlined stigma, in it’s full scope, to have 6 dimensions that include:
- Peril – Otherwise known as dangerousness. Clients can be perceived as frightening, unpredictable and strange.
- Conceal-ability – The visibility of a mental illness which parallels with controllability. Mental illnesses that are harder to conceal are more stigmatized.
- Course – How likely the person is to recover and/or benefit from treatment
- Disruptiveness – Measures how much a mental illness effects relationships or success in society. If the mental illness is seen as less disruptive, more stable, it is less stigmatized.
- Origin – Mental illness can be either biological or genetic in origin.
- Aesthetics – Or the displeasing nature of mental illness in its social cues and perceived behaviours that fall out of the norm.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA