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Taking the Next Steps after a Mental Health Diagnosis

A diagnosis is a specific clinical determination made by a physician or licensed mental health professional based on symptoms. Whether it is major depressive disorder, agoraphobia, general anxiety, bipolar disorder, or a different mental health disorder, it is important to know that the diagnosis can help you navigate your life and make positive changes for your mental health and wellbeing.

A diagnosis is the first step in becoming informed about the mental health disorder diagnosed with. After being diagnosed, it is important to understand the diagnosis. However, you do not have to deal with the diagnosis alone. Relying on trusted individuals in your support system can help as well as working with a therapist with whom you trust. This will be beneficial as you work on learning how to navigate life with the new diagnosis.

Accepting a Mental Health Disorder

Due to the cultural landscape today, there is a lot of stigma around mental illness. However, there shouldn’t be. While it may be difficult, that stigma should not get in the way of accepting the diagnosis.

A diagnosis can be viewed in a positive way. It can assist you in understanding and accepting mental health aspects that need your attention. When you reach a place of acceptance, you can gain much needed insight and understanding on what is occurring and tools to facilitate healing along with possible medications prescribed by a psychiatrist.

Journaling, discussing the diagnosis with trusted individuals, asking questions in therapy, and finding more information are a few ways to find acceptance. Avoidance is not uncommon, so it is important to be proactive. Try to be open, honest, and kind to yourself about your new circumstances, because accepting a diagnosis is the first step in taking care of you and your mental health.

Gathering Information

Acceptance may be difficult, but one way to grapple with the diagnosis is research. By learning as much as you can, you will gain a deeper understanding about the symptoms and treatment for the diagnosis.

In addition to reading as much as you can about the diagnosis, make sure to write down questions and concerns that arise during your research. It is important that you share this information with your therapist. Tell him or her about what you may have learned. Ask questions. Voice your hesitations. Your therapist is there for you.

Licensed mental health professionals are trained with a Master’s Degree in Psychology. Their extensive studies and experiences will be able to address many of your concerns and questions. They may also be also to offer insights from their personal experiences in treating a particular disorder, if needed.

Commit to Treatment and a Mental Health Therapist

One of the next steps after a diagnosis is to commit to regular treatment. Depending on the disorder, this may require regular therapy, in addition to medication-based therapy. However, a diagnosis should be looked at with an open mind.

Discovery often involves risk because you may uncover challenges or buried emotions connected to the disorder. However, when you leave the security of normal routines, you grow. Therapy and treatment requires you to be vulnerable and to try something different, in an attempt to find peace and inner strength with the diagnoses.

Living with a diagnosis is a process. Throughout your journey you will discover a lot about resilience, understanding, and change. While continuous therapeutic work may be necessary, many times it is a first experience to have your fears or confusion cleared up and listened to, empathized with, by a soothing mental health professional.

Integrated Approach

Whether you work individually with a therapist, enter a treatment program, or participate in group therapy, your treatment course will involve numerous modalities and courses of action both in and outside of treatment.

Your physician or mental health practitioner will look at the kind of mental health disorder diagnosed with or that you are struggling with, the length of it, and other outside factors like social influences and history. Treatment plans will identify personal strengths and find possible obstacles that have hindered recovery or that may hinder recovery in the future. During this process, your therapist will create a specialized plan of action to address the mental health issue appropriately.

In order to successfully manage a mental health issue, actions must be integrated. So in addition to regular therapy sessions, being aware of your symptoms and surroundings when you are outside of therapy. For example, if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, it is important to be aware of environmental factors in the outside world. The more you learn and work on the diagnosis in therapy, the more prepared you will be to handle unexpected stressors that may trigger your anxiety or an episode of panic.

Real World Application

One of the biggest steps to take after accepting and learning about the diagnosis is to learn how to navigate the outside world with the diagnosis. The diagnosis does not have to be a paralyzing obstacle in your life.

Regular and focused therapy can help address symptoms and potential challenges. Often, cognitive behavioral therapy and other modalities are used to instill coping skills, create awareness, and serve as a form of stress relief. For more severe mental health disorders, medication based therapy and group therapy may also be a part of your treatment in order to help with acclimating to the outside world.

It will also be important to inform your loved ones and family members about what you are learning about and struggling with in relation to the disorder. Therapy is a great tool that can provide family education and guidance in helping everyone understand the seriousness, specifics, and results of a diagnosis.

The next steps after a diagnosis are positive steps towards finding control and solutions for healing and inner harmony. Acceptance, learning about the diagnosis, and committing to therapeutic work are ways to find balance. Examining and truly understanding a diagnosis can make your journey easier and more enlightening.

Working on your mental health will help you develop routines that will allow you to rest, play, work, and be an active participant in the world. A mental health diagnosis does not mean that life is now limited. Instead, it may mean that your path towards finding your rhythm in life will be different. This does not mean it will be less fulfilling, simply a process towards improvement in mental health. 


Chris Massman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Chris' training includes Family Systems Theory along with numerous other theories. She believes therapy is an art and chooses the theory she feels will most benefit the individual sitting in front of her. Her specialty lies is in the field of Chemical Dependency and Addictions. Chris is currently seeing individuals, couples and families. Chris is a Clinical member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists as well as the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. Chris has two locations including Tarzana and Agoura Hills, CA.