Patients, not clients
We should also emphasize that our suffering and medically ill patients with serious neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, panic disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder are patients, not clients. The terminology used in community mental health centers around the country almost universally includes “providers” and “clients.” This de-medicalization of psychiatrists and our patients must be corrected and reversed so that the public understands that treating mental illness is not a business transaction between a “provider” and a “client.” Using the correct terminology may help generate sympathy and compassion towards patients with serious psychiatric illnesses, just as it does for patients with cancer, heart disease, or stroke. The term “client” will never evoke the public sympathy and support that our patients truly deserve.
Let’s keep this issue alive and translate our demands into actions, both locally and nationally. Psychiatrists and physicians of all other specialties must stand up for their rights and inform their systems of care that they must be called by their legitimate and lawful name: physicians or medical doctors (never “providers”). This is an issue that unites all 1.1 million of us. The US health care system would collapse without us, and asking that we be called exactly what our medical license displays is our right and our professional identity.