Oh G-d, A Borderline: Clinical Diagnostics As Fundamental Attribution Error Page: 6
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fulfill its desired goals, which warrants investigation of how it may be harmful, 2) psychotherapy
as an interpersonal process that requires acceptance by the therapist, 3) stigma in mental
healthcare, which is related to attribution theory, and 4) social psychology, or more specifically,
the power of situations and attribution error.
The Diagnostic System
Sometimes, symptoms might be indication of burgeoning existential growth (May, 1994;
Yalom, 1980) or an indication of stressful situational factors that ought to be recognized (Fischer,
1985, 1989). Indeed functional analysis and existential-phenomenological approaches demand
that the environment surrounding a cluster of symptoms be considered central to any meaningful
psychological assessment (Fischer, 1985, 1989).Yet, the very nature of a diagnostic system
renders it likely that clinicians will hone in on symptoms as "things" which are causal and must
be done away with (Halling & Goldfarb, 1996). The symptoms identified are likely important;
they do suggest that something might be "wrong" after all. Each edition of the DSM brings
stronger influence and reliance on its system to the field of psychology (Halling & Goldfarb,
Although discarding a diagnostic system as a whole is not a viable or likely option in the
mental health field (Follette & Houts, 1996), there are a number of problematic issues, both
theoretical and pragmatic, about the way that the DSM is structured. Follette and Houts (1996)
point out that modern DSMs have been touted as being atheoretical and that this fact has been
suggested to be a strength of the system. However, the DSM, in identifying syndrome clusters
thought to reflect a common etiology (Frances, First, & Pincus, 1995), assumes that some basic
"physiologic problem" (O'Donohue, 1989)- something material- is really present in the person.
Claiming a materialist etiology is an ontological assumption, one that implicitly indicts a
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Schmalz, Jonathan. Oh G-d, A Borderline: Clinical Diagnostics As Fundamental Attribution Error, thesis, December 2011; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc103389/m1/12/: accessed February 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .