The Human Cost of Diagnosis forum brought together Columbia University’s Gil Eyal, the Institute’s Lois Holzman, and Social Therapy Group director Christine LaCerva at NYU’s Vanderbilt Hall. The audience of 100+ therapists, educators, parents and others were treated to three ways of looking at diagnosis with a critical eye. A critic of the American Psychiatric Association’s clumsy and (at least in the case of the ‘autism’ label) class-biased taxonomy, Eyal recounted his research into the history, sociology and politics of Autism. Holzman, who has written extensively as part of the outcry surrounding revisions to the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), pointed to how the diagnostic paradigm distorts our understanding of human beings and limits our capacity to help. LaCerva, who trains clinicians in the non-diagnostic Social Therapy group approach, described how young people and families in her practice develop socially and emotionally by participating (and performing) as members of their social therapy group
We’re looking to create an environment in our groups where people can play with diagnosis, says LaCerva. [See: The Hamburger Syndrome.]
The discussion with the audience drew out two important themes: While the formal institutions of psychiatry and psychology appear to have become increasingly authoritarian, practitioners are finding creative ways to help their patients – which often don’t conform to the APA’s strictures. Still, most therapists are poorly prepared to help people – the tools they’ve been given are outmoded, and access to developmental therapies and practices is limited. It’s the human cost of bad science.