A positive therapeutic relationship is essential to psychiatry and should take into account patients' preferences. Preferences of 133 community care patients were surveyed regarding dress and forms of address of six professions. Participants' sex, age, ethnicity and diagnosis were recorded.
Ninety-eight per cent of participants expressed a preference. While most preferred to be called ‘patients' by general practitioners (75%) and psychiatrists (67%), there was no statistically significant difference in preference for the term ‘patient’ or ‘client’ when used by community psychiatric nurses, occupational therapists, psychologists or social workers. Participants over the age of 40 preferred the term ‘client’. Asymmetrical relationships were preferred with general practitioners and psychiatrists, evidenced by a preference to be addressed by first name (71% and 68%, respectively), to address the professional by title (81% and 80%, respectively), and the professional to be ‘smartly’ dressed (67% and 66%, respectively).
A more differentiated approach may be suggested by taking professional background and some demographic characteristics into consideration.