Humanizing Client Relationships

Humanizing Client Relationships

Let’s humanize our clients’ relationships with other people

Service professionals like social workers, behavior specialists, health advocates, support coordinators, therapists, etc. Any jobs where you write progress notes or behavior plans:

Consider using “men” and “women” to talk about people your client interacts with, rather than “males” and “females”.

If your funding/your client’s funding/insurance demands specific language, DON’T SCREW WITH THAT. But if it’s just a habit or pattern in your agency, see if you can change the way you write your own notes. By making that small shift, you can humanize the relationships that your client has with other people, in their paperwork trail AND IN THE WAY THAT YOU SEE THEM.

We KNOW that language affects perception. Make the choice to affect your own perception. “[client] wishes to go to social dances to meet females for a relationship,” focuses on the sex/gender of the person that your client wishes to meet, as opposed to the fact that your client wishes to meet a person to begin a relationship. “[client] eloped last week, and had sex with multiple males,” again, focuses on the sexual contact that your client had, as opposed to the interactions that they had with men. It may be MEDICALLY notable that the client had sex with males, but what is BEHAVIORALLY relevant is that the client wanted **an interaction with other human beings.**  So while “males” may be correct for a MEDICAL note about this kind of interaction (medical professionals, can you weigh in?), for a behavioral, emotional, or otherwise humanistically focused notation, keep in mind that your client is interacting with other people. They are looking for relationships that fulfill their emotional needs.

Side note: “men” and “women” is a binary view, which is often how my clients approach romantic/sexual/intimate relationships. If your client has a more nuanced view of gender, and wants to/does interact intimately with people or more than one/two genders, NOTE THAT AS WELL.

Humanize the relationships that our clients are in. That’s what this boils down to. Our clients are people.

If you wouldn’t ask your friend “did you have sex with a male last night?” don’t use that language for your clients

If you make this change in your language & in your progress notes, your client will see a difference in the quality of service you provide them. You will ask them more nuanced questions. You will set up more caring plans re: intimate relationships.

Don’t medicalize relationships if you are a non-medical service professional.

(don’t do that if you ARE a medical professional, unless it’s medically relevant. Note the difference between social questions and medical ones, when you’re asking them.)

This change will remind you that your client wants to interact with people, not just genitals/gendered paradigms

Heck, it will remind you that your client’s (potential) partners/friends/sex buddies are people too. You may not work with those people, but they affect your client, so they matter to you.

One tiny change 😀

“men” and “women” instead of “males” and “females”.

Start there.

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