Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is often referred to as a bible of psychiatric health. This comprehensive guide to mental health disorders serves as the standard for all psychiatric disorder diagnoses in the United States and provides clear diagnostic criteria for each disorder. Because the DSM is updated periodically via an exhaustive, collaborative editorial process, it is considered the most reliable and current framework for understanding emotional, cognitive, and behavioral health, and is instrumental in formulating dual diagnosis treatment plans.
How the DSM Is Used
In-depth psychological assessment should be the cornerstone of any high-quality dual diagnosis treatment program. After all, treatment is highly unlikely to be effective if your healthcare providers are not exactly sure what they are treating. Unfortunately, co-occurring substance abuse disorder and mental health disorders can complicate this delicate process, and it is essential that you work with a highly experienced clinical team to ensure that testing is not only comprehensive, but also targeted and thoughtfully implemented at appropriate stages of recovery.
The information gathered through psychological testing is, in part, used to gain diagnostic clarity and determine whether or not you meet the criteria for a specific diagnosis as established by the DSM, including both mental illness and substance use disorders. This clarity allows your clinical team to craft a personalized treatment plan that takes into account the full scope of your needs—a plan that includes a holistic array of therapies deployed in a way that is meaningful and relevant to you. Along with psychosocial interventions, a well-tolerated medication strategy can also be developed to address distressing symptoms that keep you from fully participating in the healing process.
Limits of the DSM
While the DSM is one of the most important tools clinicians have at their disposal for classifying the experiences of clients, it would be impossible for the DSM to capture the full depth and breadth of human experience. As such, you may have symptoms that lie outside the scope of a formal DSM diagnosis, or you may be diagnosed with a type of disorder that does not yet have a DSM entry at all. It is crucial that your clinical team acknowledges that the lived reality of humans is far richer and infinitely more complex than can be described in a single text, and that they create opportunities for healing regardless of whether or not your suffering fits precisely into the mold of a DSM entry. You strengths and struggles should always be the ultimate determinant of your treatment to ensure that you engage in a truly transformative and nurturing treatment process.