James Morrison, MD

Course Outline

With information in hand about a new patient, a mental health clinician now faces the question: How can I translate my knowledge and impressions into the most accurate diagnosis? Meeting a key need for students and novice practitioners, this volume offers an engaging, reliable, and authoritative guide to this critical task. James Morrison draws on his experience evaluating thousands of patients to provide an accessible roadmap and many practical tools for navigating the complexities of diagnostic decision making. As in his bestselling DSM-IV Made Easy, Morrison writes with wisdom and wit, offering incisive, refreshingly candid insights into the intricacies of clinical practice.

Taking the reader systematically through the entire process, the book spells out clear-cut principles for drawing on data from a variety of sources to construct a wide-ranging differential diagnosis. Tables provide guidance in determining when a patient’s symptoms may be linked to substance use or a medical disorder, and what comorbid conditions may be present. Decision trees then help the clinician select a valid working diagnosis that serves as a foundation for further evaluation and treatment. Chapters address specific diagnostic issues in the most frequently encountered mental health problem areas: mood disorders, anxiety disorders, psychoses, cognitive disorders, and interpersonal issues. Over 100 clinical examples, complete with instructive commentary, bring Morrison’s approach to life; a separate chapter features additional detailed case histories that serve as practice exercises. Special topics include the importance of assessing risks for violence, suicide, and noncompliance as part of a comprehensive evaluation. Throughout, the utility of the volume is enhanced by quick-reference tables and sidebars.

From a master practitioner, this highly readable book is an essential resource for clinicians in any of the mental health disciplines, including clinical and counseling psychology, psychiatry, social work, and psychiatric nursing.

Learning Objectives

1. List what information is conveyed in a diagnosis.
2. Explain the difference between “signs” and “symptoms” of an illness when considering a diagnosis.
3. Define and explain the use of “syndrome” in the diagnostic effort.
4. Describe the necessary steps taken to arrive at a working diagnosis.
5. Define and explain the term “differential diagnosis” when considering a diagnosis.
6. Explain the considerations given to medical- or substance-use problem in the diagnostic process.
7. Explain and utilize “Occam’s Razor” principle to the diagnostic process when considering complicated clinical presentations.
8. Apply to the diagnosis process the principle that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.
9. Explain the value of the use of the term “undiagnosed” in clinical work.
10. Describe the term “comorbidity” to indicate more than one diagnosis.
11. Effectively diagnose comorbid personality disorder when Axis I diagnosis is also present.
12. Describe the most commonly overlooked uncommon diagnosis.
13. Describe the most commonly overused diagnoses and explain the validity problems such overuse produce.
14. Explain the reasons that clinicians must always rethink their diagnosis given that patients may change and clinicians may err.
15. Explain the meaning of “false positives” in the context of ascribing a diagnosis and explain the potential problems such could engender in the treatment of patients in clinical practice.
16. Explain the ways in which a clinician can utilize background information about a client to improve the accuracy of the diagnostic process.
17. Explain the ways in which physical and mental disorders can be related.
18. Describe the information that the mental status exam elicits from the patient and explain the ways in which such information can be used in the diagnostic process.
19. Diagnose syndromes of depression, dysthymia, and mania with its variants.
20. Explain the difference between depressive symptoms and bereavement.
21. Diagnose and distinguish between bipolar I and bipolar II.
22. Distinguish between various sources of anxiety for diagnostic purposes.
23. List the psychotic symptoms required to arrive at a diagnosis of schizophrenia.
24. Explain the differences between schizophrenia and organic psychoses in considering the diagnosis of psychosis.
25. Distinguish between delirium and dementia.
26. Distinguish between amnesia and dissociation.
27. List the disorders associated with substance misuse and the ways in which they relate to one another.
28. Define personality disorders and identify the most salient characteristic of each.
29. Identify clues from the patient’s past and present presentation which could indicate the presence of a personality disorder.
30. Identify the types of patients likely to be non-compliant with treatment, and those patients who present with a risk of violence.
31. Identify the types of patients more likely to present with a risk of suicide in clinical practice.

Course Contents

PART I - The Basics of Diagnosis
  1 The Road to Diagnosis
  2. Getting Started with the Roadmap.
  3. The Diagnostic Method
  4. Putting it Together
  5. Coping with Uncertainty
  6. Multiple Diagnoses
  7. Checking Up
PART II - The Building Blocks of Diagnosis
  8. Understanding the Whole Patient
  9. Eating disorder and other psychiatric diagnoses
  10. Diagnosis and the Mental Status Exam
PART III - Applying the Diagnostic Techniques
  11. Diagnosing Depression and Mania
  12. Diagnosing Anxiety and Fear
  13. Diagnosing Psychosis
  14. Diagnosing Problems of Memory and Thinking
  15. Diagnosing Substance Misuse and Other Addictions
  16. Diagnosing Personality and Relationship Problems
  17. Beyond Diagnosis - Compliance, Suicide, Violence
  18. Patients, Patients
Appendix: Diagnostic Principles
References and Suggested Reading


"I just received my graded test results from the home study course, "Diagnosis Made Easier." It was an excellent course, one of the best I've ever done." - K.Y., LCSW, IN

"This was a great resource. I found the case samples very helpful. The diagnostic charts were new ideas to help form a logical approach to a final concideration." - P.R., Counselor, CT



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