Editor’s note: This article is the second in a series exploring why use of the term “patient” is harmful in the context of psychotherapy. For the first part, click here. For an introduction on the topic, click here.
The practice of referring to another person as a patient, because of the one-down posture that the word patient has traditionally implied, contributes to a few falsehoods. Collectively, these myths are harmful because they encourage people to view the therapist as the catalyst and source of healing in therapy, to believe that redemption exists only outside of themselves, and to idealize and depend on the therapist for whatever it is they think they need. All of this interferes with people becoming whole, healthy, and self-sufficient. These myths are as follows:
- The mental health provider somehow has better access to the most important information than the person in therapy
- The mental health provider is more powerful than the person in therapy
- The mental health provider has all of his or her “stuff” together
I understand these may seem absurd at first glance, but bear with me. It’s true, of course, that the person seeking help is doing just that, seeking help (and often suffering), whereas the practitioner, by virtue of title and experience, has the requisite knowledge and experience for helping. Superficially, it appears that the mental health provider has better access than the person in therapy to the most important information, is more powerful than the person in therapy, and has it all together. But this is not entirely the case, as I explain in the following articles:
- Myth: The Therapist Has the Most Important Information
- Myth: The Therapist Is More Powerful than the Person In Therapy
- Myth: The Therapist Has It All Together
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