Give clients your full name and title

Introduce yourself with your full name and professional title. Clients can then decide how to address you as rapport builds, especially if you provide a reminder of your name (ie: a readable ID badge).

One client called me “doc” for most of our first meeting, until I felt compelled to advise him that I did not have a doctorate. He replied that he called every therapist “doc” as there were far too many of us for him to remember all our names.

In the first stage of a consultation, clients are bombarded with information, amongst which is the name and / or title of their therapist. People who are anxious or in pain usually have poor concentration and therefore poor memory, so the chances of a client remembering your original introduction are small.

In a hospital setting, “doc” and “nurse” may be applied to most staff, but in a regular 1:1 session I’d find being called “psych” or “physio” a little impersonal.

What’s in a name? A rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet… (Romeo & Juliet, William Shakespeare)

Providing only your first name (“Hi, I’m Karen”) may be interpreted as an attempt to force intimacy. As an initial session progresses, building rapport may lead the client to invite use of their given name. Offering no alternative to the use of your given name pushes the client towards earlier and possibly uneasy intimacy (or possibly impersonality: “doc”).

Clients can derive reassurance from professional titles. Knowing that the apparently teenage “Karen” is in fact “Dr Collins” may help some people look past any age difference. Providing only a title (in lieu of a first name) may insert a barrier between you and your client, however, especially when you have access to the client’s given name from their casenotes.

Many environments require that an ID card be worn by therapists. Your ID card provides an opportunity for your client to remind themselves of your name, assuming that it is worn somewhere the client is able to look comfortably. Wearing a name badge clipped to your belt is unlikely to be of use to clients over a metre tall (ie: children or bedbound patients only). A badge on your belt may not be visible at all when you’re sitting down.

Introduce yourself when you have your client’s full attention, using your professional title, given name and family name. Wear any badge where it can be clearly seen (and read) regardless of whether you are sitting or standing. Your client is then free to address you as they wish, without undue pressure or uncertainty.

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