Objectives: The manner in which psychiatrists dress and how they address their patients and in turn are addressed, may impact upon the therapeutic relationship. We undertook a survey to assess patients' preferences regarding doctors' dress and forms of address.
Method: Patients attending four psychiatric clinics were asked to complete a questionnaire asking them to rate photographs of doctors dressed in varying levels of formality, presented in random order.
Results: One hundred and forty-five patients agreed to take part. Patients had a strong preference for their consultants to wear suits but were more ambivalent about NCHDs' attire. When asked to rate the photographs in terms of competence and ease in forming a trusting relationship, suits scored the highest ratings. When asked to rate for friendliness, smart attire scored slightly higher than suits. Of the patients 50% said that they wished to be called by their first name and 50% said that they did not have a preference. Very few patients preferred to be addressed by title but 95% said that they tended to call their doctor by title. Of the respondents 70% preferred to be called patients rather than clients or service users.
Conclusions: The patients in this survey preferred their doctors to dress formally and were comfortable with an asymmetrical form of address.