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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 46 (2004) 1, 39 - 46

Short report

How should psychiatrists dress and be addressed? A study of patients' preferences

K. Duron, G. Pieters, V. de Gucht

background The way a psychiatrist dresses can have an impact on the therapeutic relationship between psychiatrist and patient. This realisation has led most psychiatrists in Belgium to stop wearing white coats. The form of address that patients use in talking to their psychiatrists can also have a bearing on the therapeutic relationship.
aim To identify in-patients' preferences with regard to their psychiatrists' style of dress and to identify the form of address these patients prefer in talking to their psychiatrists.
methods One hundred and one randomly chosen in-patients were presented with a set of photos and were subjected to a structured interview. They were required to state their preference with regard to their psychiatrists' style of dress and to state what form of address they preferred to use in talking to their psychiatrists.
results Patients preferred female psychiatrists to dress casually, but they preferred male psychiatrists to wear suits; casual dress was also considered permissible but was less acceptable. The white coat was mainly the choice of older patients; younger patients however were in favour of casual clothing for psychiatrists. Most patients preferred to address their psychiatrist as 'doctor'.
conclusions Psychiatrists need to give more attention to the way they dress. Psychiatrists' style of dress and form of address used by patients can both make a therapeutic contribution to enhance the patient-psychiatrist relationship.

keywords dress styles, psychiatrists, terms of address, white coat