The Fear of a Therapist’s Misdiagnosis

Clinical psychology has played an important role in society. Mental health has taken a great turn in terms of advancement, attention, and legitimacy. Generally, it has made progress in the last century. With the discoveries of mental disorders came the discoveries of different treatment. Throughout time, researchers have tried to understand a disorder’s underlying causes, why it develops, it’s genetic attributions, and how to successfully treat them in order for those individuals who suffer from them to prosper in society. Furthermore, psychology is a field that takes all factors of an individual’s life into consideration. Unfortunately, clinical psychologists, like all humans, are prone make mistakes when diagnosing their patients.

The fear of misdiagnosis or a wrong treatment to a wrong problem is something that individuals think of when going to a therapist. Unfortunately, we have heard about the controversial issue that a lot of children are being misdiagnosed with Attention-Deficient Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) when they are merely acting out or acting like children. These mistakes tend to bring up the subject as to why people are being misdiagnosed. Is there an underlying reason that puts the fault on the client or on the therapist? This question ultimately leads to the assumption that clinical therapists can make mistakes in their diagnosis. There are a couple of factors that can be taken into consideration. According to Kvarnstrom (2017), clinicians might be inclined to diagnose disorders that they feel familiar treating. Another factor could be the vast availability of medication. Lastly, clinicians may have an unaware bias towards individuals due to their cultural or racial backgrounds.

According to the Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts (2012), sometimes, preexisting information may cause bias on a patient. For example, if an individual is being transferred to a clinical therapist from a doctor, then the therapist would read the pre-existing information (diagnosis records) and might end up with the same assumption. As a result, clinicians are under the labeling effect (which is the effect of labeling on judgment of mental illness (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). Additionally, clinicians occasionally exhibit negative stereotypes and the existence of clinical bias is very indirect. Another example of clinical prejudice could be based on cultural labels. After a clinician meets with a new client, he/she may realize that the person is, for example, African American. As a result, the clinician may diagnose the patient with schizophrenia, whereas, he/she might not give the same diagnosis to another individual who is Caucasian. Lastly, gender may influence a clinical therapist to misdiagnosis. For example, clinicians may rate females as less competent and therefore, would need more therapy sessions in order to overcome their problem. On the other hand, they would find a man to be more psychologically competent than a woman and would require less work for their healing process.

In conclusion, the problem of misdiagnosis is a serious one. Understanding the nature of a problem is necessary to identify solutions to that problem. Therefore, clinical psychologists must have an important interest in understanding their client’s problems. When a proper diagnosis occurs, then the proper measures are to be taken for a treatment plan. This will undoubtedly benefit the client on their road to recovery. Clinicians, like all individuals of society, are prone to bias and thought misrepresentation. It is through their skilled and professional training that will allow them to rid themselves of these biases and, ultimately, take care of a patient in the best way possible.


Kvarnstrom, E. (2018, February 27). The Dangers of Mental Health Misdiagnosis: Why Accuracy Matters. Retrieved September 24, 2018, from

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

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