Controversy: Patient versus Client versus Consumer?


Patient, Client, or Consumer? In occupational therapy and other healthcare fields, there is a semantic controversy over what us therapists/the public should be calling those who utilize occupational therapy services. Depending on the label used, we get a different feel for the relationship between therapist/person.

My friend, a psychologist, told me she likes to use the word “patient” because it came from Latin and means “one who suffers,” and she feels the people who see her are there because they are suffering. Some therapists prefer “client” as they feel “patient” has more of a superior-inferior feel, as well as a “medical model” feel, and many OTs feel we need to be more encompassing. Other therapists prefer “consumer” because it seems to have a more neutral connotation. I’m sure there are plenty of other reasons for the different labels. Some therapists feel very passionately about the “appropriate” label, others don’t really care, others use them interchangeably. I think there may be an even better label out there. Hmm. So I just asked┬ámy pediatric therapist friend what she calls the people she sees, and she said with a shrug, “child.” I loved that answer! Maybe that’s the best one of all. ­čÖé

What do you think? Patient, client, or consumer?

Feb 08, 2015 | Category: Current OT Students, Educators, Occupational Therapy, Therapists | Comments: none