Why do you refer to ‘patients’?

Although in many countries the practice of psychoanalysis is still tied to the medical field, psychoanalytic sessions are nothing like seeing a doctor. Some people feel uncomfortable thinking of themselves as ‘patients’ in psychotherapy or analysis, which is why many counsellors and therapists refer to ‘clients’, and even NHS mental health in-patients are called ‘service users’.

I tend to refer to ‘analysands’ or ‘patients’. The Greek and Latin roots of the word ‘patient’ refer to someone who is suffering. Most people who seek out therapy are suffering, even if this may not be obvious to others, and sometimes not even to themselves. There is nothing shameful about being in pain. It is a deeply human experience.

A ‘client’ is someone engaged in a business transaction who pays money in order to be entitled to receive an object or a service. Psychoanalysis does not sell health or happiness. It offers a unique and intensely personal experience by creating a space for exploration and growth, but how exactly this space is taken up varies so immensely that calling it a business transaction would be misleading.