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Week 1: The Risks and Benefits of Diagnosis
Understanding the definitions and conceptualizations of various psychopathologies is imperative when practicing as a social worker. As part of a multidisciplinary team, a social worker needs to be able to recognize patterns of illness and discuss a client’s diagnosis. Social workers in clinical settings also need to understand how a diagnosis should be developed and applied in an ethical, professional, and client-centered manner.
While cultures vary widely in their approach to mental health and to different mental disorders, there are many common barriers to help-seeking and to accurate diagnosis. Chief among those barriers, across nations and cultures, is the stigma associated with receiving a diagnostic label. Two different types of stigma are public stigma (consisting of stereotypes; allegiance to mistaken beliefs; and reactive, discriminating behaviors) and self-stigma (the internalized beliefs that result from repeated stigmatizing thoughts).
This week you consider the impact of both types of stigma and the risks and benefits of using any diagnostic label.
Learning Objectives
Students will:
Analyze use of diagnostic labels in professional and lay environments
Analyze influence of stigma on experience with and treatment of mental illness
Learning Resources
Required Readings
Paris, J. (2015). The intelligent clinicians guide to the DSM-5 (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press
Chapter 4, “What Is (and Is Not) a Mental Disorder” (pp. 54–69)
Pillay, S. (2010, May 3). The dangers of self-diagnosis: How self-diagnosis can lead you down the wrong path [Blog post]. Retrieved from
Campbell, R. D., & Mowbray, O. (2016). The stigma of depression: Black American experiences. Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work, 25(4), 153–269. doi:10.1080/15313204.2016.1187101
Corrigan, P. W., & Rao, D. (2012). On the self-stigma of mental illness: Stages, disclosure, and strategies for change. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 57(8), 464–469. doi:10.1177/070674371205700804
Document: How to Upload a Video and a Transcript (PDF)
Required Media
Accessible player –Downloads–Download Video w/CCDownload AudioDownload TranscriptLaureate Education (Producer). (2018a). Psychopathology and diagnosis for social work practice podcast: Diagnosis, self-stigma, and mental health [Audio podcast]. Baltimore, MD: Author.
TED Conferences, LLC (Producer). (2017). There’s no shame in taking care of your mental health [Video file]. Retrieved from
Optional Resources
Corrigan, P. W. (2007) How clinical diagnosis might exacerbate the stigma of mental illness. Social Work, 52(1), 31–39. doi:10.1093/sw/52.1.31
Johnson, J. L., Oliffe, J. L., Kelly, M. T., Galdas, P., & Ogrodniczuk, J. S. (2012). Men’s discourses of help?seeking in the context of depression. Sociology of Health & Illness, 34(3), 345–361. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9566.2011.01372.x
Muralidharan, A., Lucksted, A., Medoff, D.,
u2028Fang, L. J., & Dixon, L. (2016). Stigma: A unique source of distress for family members of individuals with mental illness. Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 43(3), 484–493. doi:10.1007/s11414-014-9437-4
Tsang, H. W. H., Ching, S. C., Tang, K. H., Lam, H. T., Law, P. Y. Y., & Wan, C. N. (2016). Therapeutic intervention for internalized stigma of severe mental illness: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Schizophrenia Research. 173(1-2), 45–53. doi:10.1016/j.schres.2016.02.013
Document: Suggested Further Reading for SOCW 6090 (PDF)
Note: Throughout the course, you may take the opportunity to read more about many of the topics covered. This document has a list of suggested further readings organized by course week. This same document will be linked in each week.
Discussion: Introduction Video
Even without professional experience, you may have heard diagnostic labels used—properly or improperly—and experienced the power that they have. People often use diagnostic words inappropriately in casual conversation or in public settings without considering the impact. In these instances, diagnostic labels such as depression can represent anything from normal sadness to severe debilitation. Others, such as sociopathic, have criminal associations.
In the digital age, untrained individuals can easily find diagnostic definitions and research symptom combinations for themselves and others. Many go further and actually diagnose their own or others’ conditions without understanding the difference between that comparison and a professional process. In one of this week’s readings, Pillay (2010) powerfully discusses the dangers of “checklist self-diagnosis” and the growing confusion over what is and is not a diagnosis.
In this Discussion, you consider your own perceptions about diagnosis.
To upload your media to this Discussion thread, use the Kaltura Media option from the mashup tool drop-down menu. Refer to the Kaltura Media Uploader area in the course navigation menu for more information about how to upload media to the course.
To prepare: Read the Pillay (2010) blog post and the Paris (2015) chapter.
By Day 3
For this graded Discussion, record a 3- to 5-minute video in which you share your background and your progress in social work training. Also relate your professional or personal experience with DSM-5 diagnosis. In your video, include responses to the following:
Introduce yourself and say where you live.
Describe your progress in your social work training.
Describe what exposure you have had to the DSM-5 or to mental health diagnosis.
Explain the advantages of receiving an accurate diagnosis.
Describe the problems that arise when individuals casually self-diagnose or diagnose those around them.
Include a transcript and/or edit closed captioning on your video to ensure your presentation is accessible to colleagues of differing abilities.
By Day 5
Respond to at least two colleagues in the following ways:
Compare your response with your colleague’s. Identify any commonalities or differences or any insights you gained from your peer’s response.
You are required to create a thread for your initial Discussion post before you will be able to view other colleagues’ postings in this forum.
If you have not yet visited the weekly resources and assignments, you should visit that area now to access the complete set of directions and guidelines for this discussion.
Submission and Grading Information
Grading Criteria
To access your rubric:
Week 1 Discussion Rubric
Post by Day 3 and Respond by Day 5
To participate in this Discussion:
Week 1 Discussion
Assignment: Diagnosis: The Burden of Stigma in Help Seeking
The threat of public stigma, as well as self-stigma, can prevent individuals from receiving the mental health treatment they need. In this Assignment, you analyze the influence of stigma on experiences with and treatment of mental illness.
To prepare: Watch the TED Talk by Sangu Delle and then review the readings for this week. Focus on Delle’s examples illustrating Corrigan’s model about the stages of stigma and the hierarchy of disclosure. Consider Delles experience against that model.
By Day 7
Submit a 3-page paper that addresses the following:
Briefly explain Corrigan’s model of the stages of stigma and his recommendations and hierarchy about recovery.
Explain whether Delle’s experience follows that model. Use specific examples to argue your perspective. If you agree, identify which stage of recovery Delle is in.
Analyze Delle’s reports about his own experiences with both types of stigma. Provide specific examples, and in your analysis consider the following questions:
Does one type of stigma predominate in his talk?
Which of Delle’s personal values or beliefs were challenged by his internalizations about his own illness and help-seeking?
What strengths does he exhibit?
What was the primary benefit of his diagnosis?
Do you think his experience would be different if his culture was different? Explain why or why not?

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