The Risks of Diagnosing
Diagnosis is risky in a variety of ways. It is risky for the client, and this is the most critical factor in this discussion. For if we are wrong in our diagnosis, even when the process involves a high degree of client participation, harm could occur. We know all too well that we can cause harm ranging from a mild inconvenience to a client to death, either of the client or someone else. Thankfully, life-and-death diagnostic errors are not a daily event for most of us. However, they do occur. The decision to leave a child in a particular situation can lead to his or her death through avoidable neglect, as can a misjudgment of a client’s level of depression, which can lead to suicide. We can also misjudge a situation that can result in murder. In addition, and more frequently, misdiagnosis can deprive clients of available resources, techniques of intervention, the application of helpful theoretical models, and can cause misuse of treatment modalities, all of which can cause hurt at all degrees of severity. At a less serious level, a misdiagnosis can waste our time and our clients’ time.