Archive for the ‘patient’ Category

Consumer, Client, Patient, Analysand: What’s in a Name?

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Willy Shakes asked the question in Queen Lizzie’s time (the first one, not the current monarch.) At that time he was asking because, to the questioner, a name was something that made no difference in the person to whom it was attached but made lots of difference as to how the person was perceived and accepted by others.

Insurance companies have renamed everyone who is receiving health care services. No longer are we “patients,” “clients”or, in the case of psychoanalysis and or psychotherapy “analysands.” We’re now “consumers,” according to the insurance companies. Those of us who are delivering health care services are no longer “doctors,” “analysts,” or “psychotherapists.” We’re all lumped under the title”provider,” again by the insurance companies. What does this mean? Don’t we still get treated the same as we did when we were patients and therapists, Analysts and analysands, etc?

Well, no. Not really and, on top of that, I don’t like being called a consumer when I’m on the receiving end of health care, nor do I much care for being called a provider when I’m on the giving end. Why? I’m gonna tell ya (with a nod to Dino. RIP.)

A consumer is someone who uses/purchases a good or service, which is considered a consumable. Very general. Doesn’t separate someone who is in treatment from someone who’d buying a toaster. Are you using my service? Yes. Does that make you a consumer? No. Our relationship is more personal than that, or, at least, is intended to be more personal than the relationship between someone buying a toaster and the salesman at an appliance store.

“OK. So I’m not a consumer,” you say. “Then I’m your client, right?” I’m not so sure. The dictionary on my e-reader says that a client is “a person…using the services of a lawyer or other professional person or company” (New Oxford American Dictionary.) I guess that sounds closer to the mark. I am a professional. Are you “using” my services? Well, yes and no. You have engaged me in my professional capacity. Maybe client does work but it seems to me that it misses something. It’s like chicken soup without the parsnip and dill weed. It’s may be good but it’s missing that geschmeck that makes it delicious.

What’s missing? You got it? No? Sure you do. The helping relationship. The (hopefully) healing relationship. So what’s the word now? Patient, right? Same dictionary gives the first use of the word patient as a noun to be “…a person receiving or registered to receive medical treatment.” Woah! Shazaam!, as Gomer was wont to say.) Shazoom!, as Captain Marbles said. “That’s it,” I hear you say. Well, yea and nay. Far better than consumer,  more better than client but still….

Analysand? What the hell is that? A person undergoing the process of psychoanalysis with a trained psychoanalyst. A very specific word that honors the relationship that exists in the room between us.

As for “provider….” Dad (in the stories of how family life used to be) is the “provider.” “Your father’s a good provider.” Can we talk about transference and countertransference here? I thought so.

So, what do you prefer to be called? What do the implications of “consumer” and “provider” mean to you? Add a comment and let us know. Keep those ol’ cards & letters rollin’ in (Dino, we miss you. Lots.)