Letter to the Editor
Choice of Words
Psychiatric News
Volume 38 Number 19 page 42-42

I am writing in response to the letter from Dr. James Blevins in the June 20 issue about use of terms such as "client" and "customer" to describe the patients we treat.

From many years ago, I recall Carl Rogers Ph.D., described how his terminology came to be. Psychotherapy, in those days, was considered to be the practice of medicine. Psychologists (in Michigan, Wisconsin, and other places) were threatened with prosecution for practicing medicine without a license if treating emotional disorders.

Rogers explained, "As we couldn’t call it psychotherapy, so we called it counseling; as we couldn’t have patients, so we had clients."

It’s a bit of a stretch to think that Rogers, as good and decent a gentleman as he was, had such a pervasive influence as attributed to him by Dr. Blevins. Maybe another motive is operating. Being a provider of medical advice and services seems something like being a financial advisor. That circumlocution tends to distance one somewhat from (bad) outcomes—"I only gave my advice, the customer made her or his free choice."

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