Getting to Grips with Mental Disorders
The KZN branch of the Southern African Association for Counselling and Development in Higher Education (SAACDHE) hosted a workshop at UKZN detailing the recent updates to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5) by the American Psychiatric Association.
The two-day workshop was facilitated by the Director of the Centre for Psychological Services and Career Development at the University of Johannesburg, Professor Alban Burke.
Burke examined the gamut of mental disorders, including neurodevelopmental disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders.
Often referred to as the ‘bible’ of psychiatry, DSM offers a classification system for mental disorders which allows practitioners to assign a common name to a group of phenomena, qualify the information content by adding the descriptive features such as symptoms, age of onset, severity, and predict the expected course and outcome. It is used by psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses, occupational and physiotherapists, counsellors and other health and mental health practitioners.
Burke, known as ‘Dr House’ because he uses a whiteboard when looking at cases and doing diagnostics, advised using ‘your full armament of skills’ when doing therapy and selecting the most appropriate treatment for different patients. ‘Different things for different people and different problems,’ said Burke.
He cautioned against taking a single symptom and generalising it into a disorder.
Dr Saloschini Pillay, College Manager: Student Support Services in the College of Health Sciences and Acting Chairperson for the SAACDHE – KZN region, said the workshop helped participants understand the amendments to the DSM and its implications for assessment, diagnosis and intervention. ‘The DSM is supported by an extensive empirical foundation, is intended for clinical, research and educational purposes and provides a helpful guide to clinical practice,’ said Pillay.
‘The manual is intended for use by mental health practitioners and the amendments provide clarity on the different and amended categories of mental disorders, assessment criteria and diagnoses which ultimately inform the appropriate intervention strategy and treatment regimen,’ she said.
Subsidised by SAACDHE National, the workshop was attended by student counsellors from Student Support Services at UKZN and Correctional Services, private practitioners, and representatives of regional Higher Education Institutions, including UNISA and the Durban University of Technology.