Do psychologists (and other behavioral professionals) have “patients” or “clients”? The American Psychological Association passed a resolution recommending that the answer depend upon the type of services provided. If a psychologist is providing health services, such as psychotherapy, it’s best to use “patients,” according to a resolution passed by APA. However, if a psychologist works in an industrial/organizational, human resources, or other applied role, it makes more sense to say “clients.”
Ronald Rozensky, PhD, has advocated for use of “patients” and writes (quoted by permission):
In the era of the “Patient Protection Act” and with psychology’s historical, ongoing and increasing involvement in integrated, inter-professional, team-based care, I think that it is time that we routinely refer to (the people we serve) as “patients. Our colleagues across the spectrum of health-care disciplines, and those psychologists who routinely practice in hospitals, health science centers and clinics, see their work as “patient-centered,” which is defined as providing care that is respectful of, and responsive to, individual patient preferences, needs and values, with patient values guiding all clinical decisions.” (APA Monitor, Letter to the Editor, Sept, 2017)
I have called the people that consult me “patients” for over 3 decades, and not a single one has ever expressed concern. I have wondered whether the people that consult us really care if they are called “patients” or “clients,” or if if we are the only party involved who worries about this distinction.
Read more about the APA position: Section. 5.6 of APA’s Publication Manual, Seventh Edition (you would have to buy the darn thing).