the power of labels

Most patients take too much responsibility for the wrong things, and not enough responsibility for those things about which they can do something. Furthermore, on the positive side, the naming (of their condition) helps the patient feel allied with a vast movement which is "science"; and, also, he is not isolated any more since all kinds of other people have the same problem that he has. The naming assures him that he therapist has an interest in him and is willing to act as his guide through purgatory. Naming the problem is tantamount to the therapist's saying, "Your problem can be known, it has causes; you can stand outside and look at it."

But the greatest danger in the therapeutic process lies right here: that the naming for the patient will be used not as a aid for change, but as a substitute for it. He may stand off and get a temporary security by diagnosis, labels, talking about symptoms, and then be relieved of the necessity of using will in action and in loving. This plays into the hands of modern man's central defense, namely intellectualizing- using words as substitutes for feelings and experience. The word skates always on the edge of the danger of covering up the daimonic as well as disclosing it.

Rollo May, Love & Will