Patients, Clients, or What?

Occasionally people ask me how I refer to the people I work with. I think of this question in terms of a continuum. At one end of the continuum are patients; next come clients and impatients, who are no longer patient with their health; then come students; and finally, colleagues. I have felt it a great privilege to help some people walk this entire continuum, coming to me first as patients or clients, becoming students, growing more passionate about the work we did together and the independent work that grew out of that, and finally becoming colleagues. Some degree of impatience often helps, as does openness to learning. I want you to work with me and play an active role in your healing; that invariably leads to more dramatic results as well as greater satisfaction for both of us. The root of the word “patient” means “passive” as well as “suffering.” I don’t want you to be passive in the face of your own suffering. You may be overwhelmed, and I’ll be delighted and honored to help you move out of that overwhelmed state and learn tools for healing.

If you want to stay a passive patient, I may not be the best practitioner for you. Perhaps that’s why I never refer to the people I work with as “patients;” I really don’t want you to be patient with illness or pain, and I don’t want you to be passive.

Still, this is a continuum, and I acknowledge that some people need to begin at the beginning of the continuum. That’s okay. Because it’s a continuum, I usually use the word “client” for the people I work with; for many people, it’s the mid-point on the continuum.

Some people come to me primarily for Qigong lessons; I refer to these people as students. Similarly, if you come to my herbalism classes, I’ll refer to you as a student, and if you apprentice with me, as an apprentice. The apprenticeship program isn’t set up yet, but it’s coming.