As a Psychologist

You are not only supposed to ask a patient questions. Of course, it is an important part of your job, but you have to ask the right questions and be able to read between the lines, look at the clues and, basically, see everything.


In order to classify an individual, or patient, into a category within a taxonomy of a possible mental illness, you will assess different aspects.

Firstly, a good tip for helping with making the patient feel secure and safe is by a proper introduction. You can welcome the patient by standing up, followed by an introduction of yourself and that the sessions are under a confidentiality agreement. Then you can ask your patient their name, if you do not already know.

Further, a good way to start off a session is by asking the patient: What made you come here today? Followed by for example, “and why have you not come before?”. This might benefit you, as a psychologist, to be able to understand more of the situation of the patient. Which again will assist you to assess, and hopefully help them. (Martins, 2021). In order to hypothesize a diagnosis, you can look at different aspects:

One aspect you can view is a sign and can be defined as any objective evidence of a disease, the physical demonstration of a problem. These are usually more easily observed by someone external, in the case of a session, this will be you, rather than felt by the individual. They can be visible to you, for instance sweat or paleness, and likely to be measured. Although, they are likely to be recognized through senses like touching or listening. Signs can be an indication of symptoms. (Martins, 2021).

Symptoms are commonly expressed by the individual itself, which means that they will be more uncertain as they are invisible. In other words, they are internal to the individual and if not shared, people surrounding them will not know that they exist. (Martins, 2021).

However, symptoms and signs can work as simultaneously, as there is a possibility for them to work by themselves, but also together. If the patient notes that they are sweating, it will be defined as a symptom. However, if the therapist senses the sweating, it will be defined as a sign. (Martins, 2021).

Through etiology the probability of diagnosing a possible disorder can increase. If you know the causes and origins of a specific disorder, you will more easily be able to detect and categorize the signs and symptoms. (Martins, 2021).

In order to distinguish between, for example, a disorder and poor mental health, you can look at the course. Course is described as the individual pattern of a disorder, whether it is a chronic, episodic, or time-limited course. A good example is to look at the time difference between a major depressive episode, that normally lasts between 1-2 weeks, and depression as a disorder. (Martins, 2021).

These are not rules to be followed, but just some suggestions and guidelines that you can keep in mind.


Martins, S. (2021). Psychopathology: Diagnosis of abnormal behaviour. [Slide 60-63]. UEM.blackboard. Retrieved from:

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