What is recovery? Recovery in mental illnesses can mean living a meaningful and productive life despite a disability. It can also refer to a reduction or complete remission of symptoms and a healing transformation of the self. For most people, it refers to the power of hope in healing disorders that were once thought to be hopeless. As Henry Ford once said, "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Letting go of hubris and learning from clients

Maddux & Winstead (2008) report that clinicians do not show better clinical judgment than a lay judge. Furthermore, although clinicians believe that their clinical experience increases their diagnostic ability, the research shows that this is not true (Maddux and Winstead, 2008). "The relation between clinical experience and judgmental accuracy has been weak in most studies of personality and psychopathology assessment” (Maddux & Winstead, 2008, p. 114).

I have noticed that a disturbing number of mental health professionals believe that their degrees and experience qualify them to diagnose people and determine all kinds of things about them without spending very much time with them or sometimes without even meeting them. Just today I had a counselor tell me that my client obviously does not need disability benefits based on very little information that I provided. I have spent hours interviewing this particular client to determine if she meets Social Security's requirements for said benefits, but this person believes she can determine this based on one sentence! I wish I could say that this is the first clinician whom I've witnessed exhibit such hubris, but that's far from the case.  

I have a theory that there is potential for clinicians to learn from experience if we stop assuming that we know so much from the beginning. As a profession, if we assume less about clients and stop trying to figure them out with increasing speed, and instead keep an open mind and listen, we can indeed learn from experience. This experience however, should never cause us to reach the point where we believe we cannot learn more from our clients. I am reminded of a quote: "Knowledge speaks. Wisdom listens."

Maddux, J.E., & Winstead, B.A. (2008). Psychopathology: Foundations for a contemporary understanding (2nd ed.)New York, NY: Taylor and Francis Group. 

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