How to Request an Evaluation From Your Therapist
How to Request an Evaluation From Your Therapist
Over the last several years, discussions surrounding mental health and therapy have increased rapidly. Social media and popular culture have been two large driving factors in the expanding conversation. People from all backgrounds, thought leaders, public figures, and even your neighbor down the street, have begun sharing their personal experiences with mental health more openly as well which has only furthered the conversation. This has provided an overwhelming opportunity for connection, information, education, and stigma reduction. However, there is a dark side to this as well. Individuals, without professional guidance, may not have a full understanding of the way their symptoms and lived experience correlate to a specific diagnosis if it correlates at all.
Self-examination can be a helpful way to identify symptoms, patterns, and a better understanding of your lived experience. But, if possible, it is always best to have a discussion with your mental health professional, like the therapists at Genesis Counseling of South Tampa, when you have questions surrounding diagnosis. If you’re feeling curious about the symptoms you’re experiencing and whether or not they might align with a specific diagnosis, it may feel intimidating to bring it up to your therapist. This is normal. However, it doesn’t have to feel that way! Keep reading to learn more about how to open up a diagnostic conversation with your therapist.
Check-in with yourself
So you think you might have ADHD (or Anxiety, or Depression, etc.) First of all, congratulations on giving yourself attention and care. It is not always easy to notice and acknowledge how you’re feeling. Whether you’ve noticed changes in your behavior, difficulty in your daily life, or simply interpersonal differences that have made you curious, it’s great that you are open and aware of these things.
Ask yourself, where or when did you first find yourself wondering about your experience? Did you see a video with behaviors that you relate to? Have you met someone with similar experiences or traits as you who recently received a diagnosis? Has someone in your family recently received a diagnosis? Was there something you read that you related to? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions but they’re important. Make note of what you’re experiencing, thinking, and feeling if you can.
Check-in with your therapist
Now that you’ve done a bit of reflection, the next best step is to have a conversation with your therapist. Whether you are seeking out therapy in order to have this discussion, or are currently being seen by a therapist, it doesn’t matter! The best way to begin the conversation is by asking for a moment to share some thoughts about your experience. In a setting with a new therapist, they will likely be asking many exploratory questions anyway, so it is a great opportunity to go into further detail or highlight your specific concerns. It can be as simple as saying, “I’d like to discuss these symptoms/experiences. Is ADHD (etc.) a possible reason for them?” In a setting where you’ve already been seeing your therapist for a while, it might look like asking for observation from a different perspective. “I know that we’ve discussed depression as something that I’ve been experiencing. But lately, I’m also noticing some other feelings that feel more like anxiety. Could we explore the possibility of that as well?” Once the door for conversation is open, the hardest part is over!
It is important to note that everyone’s experience after this discussion will be different. There is rarely a one size fits all approach when it comes to therapy. It is likely that your therapist will be open to hearing and discussing your experiences and concerns. As a licensed mental health professional, they have the tools to hear your concerns, to compare that to their existing understanding of your experience, and to cross-check all of that against diagnostic criteria to gain a better understanding of your mental health picture. They may have additional questions to ask or testing to provide. They may be able to provide insight on how what you’re experiencing relates to an existing diagnosis or is exacerbated as a result of one. They may also help you feel less alone by determining that there are many others that share your experiences and offering you healthy ways of working through them. However, you may also have provided them with key information that does lead to a new understanding of your mental health experience. As skilled as a therapist may be, they are not able to be with you at all times or experience the things that you do. Your ability to communicate can be very beneficial and your therapist will know how to help you do that. Regardless of the outcome of the conversation, you should always expect a compassionate and informative response from your therapist, otherwise, it might be time to seek out a better fit.
Mental health is a very nuanced, ever-changing experience for each of us. Now that you’ve had this discussion with your therapist, first, be proud of yourself. It takes courage to advocate for yourself and you not only did it, but you opened up further opportunities to learn about yourself. Did the conversation result in an evaluation and diagnosis? Did the conversation lead to an expanded understanding of an existing diagnosis? Or perhaps no diagnoses were determined and instead you received some tools to navigate the experiences that you shared with your therapist. All of these and more are great outcomes. The more we learn about ourselves, the more opportunities we have to grow, heal, and evolve. It may or may not be comforting to any one individual to name an experience or series of experiences. But it is important to remember that each of those experiences are a valid and important part of your story regardless of their name or whether or not they fit into a diagnostic criterion. The most important thing is that you and your therapist come up with ways to support you in improving the way that you navigate your lived experience, whatever that might look like.