Assessment and diagnosis are a part of the training that every licensed mental health professional goes through in order to receive their credentials. Counselors take classes in graduate school and work with a supervisor generally for several years after they graduate to become competent in the area of assessing and diagnosing. Counselors also use a standardized tool called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Edition V or the “DSM” for short. This giant manual essentially lists all current psychological disorders, their symptoms and criteria, and codes to identify them. These codes are what your counselor will use to submit to your insurance for billing.
Counselors may all have slightly different approaches to assessments but generally during your intake, or first formal meeting, with your therapist (which you can read more about here) your therapist will ask you A LOT of questions about the symptoms you are experiencing, how long you have been experiencing them, and explore other potential contributing factors such as sleep, appetite or major life traumas. Your initial diagnosis will come out of this process. It is absolutely appropriate for you to ask any questions you may have about this process or about what specific diagnosis your counselor is considering giving you.