Language Shapes Our Lives

Two young women sit smiling eating ice cream cones. - 3/04/2020

As an organization focused on helping people in many different ways Lakeview Center pays close attention to what we say. We understand the importance of words in creating perceptions and feelings of others. In the work of helping people with addictions, mental illness and disabilities, we are careful to use person-first, trauma informed language. Our goal is to avoid sounding punitive or derogatory toward someone who has been brave enough to seek help. We want to create an environment of benevolence and acceptance.

Examples of language that does not perpetuate discrimination or label a person:

Stigmatizing Terms                                                                 Strength-based Words that Promote Recovery

Addict                                                                                              Person experiencing substance abuse

Disabled                                                                                         Person with a disability

Client                                                                                               Person served

Mentally ill                                                                                     Person experiencing mental illness

Failure                                                                                             Challenge

History of illness                                                                           Life experience

Cure                                                                                                 Recovery path

Refused                                                                                          Declined

Resisted                                                                                          Chose not to

Believes                                                                                          Stated

Decompensate                                                                              Experiencing an increase in symptoms

Manipulative                                                                                 Seeking alternate means of meeting needs

Suffering from                                                                              Has a history of

Low functioning                                                                            Has difficulty with

We seek to make people feel better, survive trauma and find pathways to recovery. What we say and how we say it makes an impact of the quality of service we provide.

Everyone can practice person-first trauma informed communication. Start by being aware of what you say and avoid language that could potentially make a person feel “less than.” The practice can improve your work, family and community relationships. 

One of the most important things all of us can focus on every day is what we say to everyone we meet. Language shapes our lives.  It can bring us closer to people or distance us from them. Making wise, compassionate choices will ensure the latter.