THURSDAY, Sept. 23, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Practicing mental health counselors and counselors-in-training have better attitudes when referring to clients as “people with schizophrenia” rather than “schizophrenic,” according to a study published in the October issue of the Journal of Counseling & Development.

Darcy Haag Granello, Ph.D., from The Ohio State University, and Sean R. Gorby, Ph.D., from Capital University — both in Columbus, Ohio, provided 251 professional counselors and counselors-in-training an instrument to measure attitudes to people with schizophrenia. Half the sample received a version using the term “schizophrenic,” and half received a version using the term “people with schizophrenia.”

The researchers found that attitudes were more authoritarian, more socially restrictive, and less benevolent with use of the version with the term “schizophrenic.” Terminology had an impact on both counselors and counselors-in-training; greater differences in tolerance were seen for practicing counselors.

“Language matters. The words we use can either reduce stigma and improve the quality of care that our clients receive, or our words can make counselors less likely to treat their clients with basic human dignity and respect,” Granello said in a statement. “The take-home message is clear — all people, even mental health professionals, are affected by the words and labels that we use. We now have empirical evidence that taking the time to utter a few more syllables and include the word ‘person’ has real potential to make a difference in the lives of our clients.”

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