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Words Matter: The Importance of Person First Language

Activity Type:

  • On Demand

Release Date: 7/16/2019

Expiration Date: 7/16/2021

  • AMA PRA Category 1: 0.5
  • CNE: 0.5
  • Participation: 0.5



Person first, or people first, language developed out of the human rights movement for people with disabilities. This movement centered on the belief that disability first language is dehumanizing to people with mental illness. People have a diagnosis; they are not their diagnosis. It is important that clinicians become comfortable in using person first language. This course will examine the origins and the contemporary use of language as a form of advocacy and respect, and the role it plays in meaningful engagement. We will also examine the use of generic terms such as patient, client, or case to refer to a larger group of people who may, in fact, not have those relationships with a clinician.


FREE - $0

Funding for this initiative was made possible (in part) by Grant No. 1H79SM080818-01 from SAMHSA. The views expressed in written conference materials or publications and by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services; nor does mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. 

Learning Objectives

  • Summarize the clinical and recovery benefits of using person first language
  • Rephrase non-person first language commonly used for describing individuals with mental  health disabilities to person first phrases
  • Cite key milestones of the historical evolution of the person first movement

Target Audience

Counselor, Nurse/Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatrist, Physician (Non-Psychiatrist), Physician Assistant, Psychologist, Peer Specialist/Peer Support

Instructional Level


Estimated Time to Complete

Estimated Duration: 30 minutes
Program Start Date: July 16, 2019 
Program End Date: July 16, 2021

How to Earn Credit

Participants who wish to earn AMA PRA Category 1 Credit ™, ANCC contact hours, or a certificate of participation may do so by completing all sections of the course, including the evaluation. A multiple choice quiz is provided based on the content. A passing score of 75% must be achieved. Retakes are available for the test. After evaluating the program, course participants will be provided with an opportunity to claim hours of participation and print an official CME certificate (physicians), CNE certificate (nursing), or certificate of participation (non-physicians) showing the completion date and hours earned.

Continuing Education Credit


The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The APA designates this live event for a maximum of 1.0 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Nurses/Nurse Practitioners

The American Psychiatric Nurses Association is accredited with distinction as a provider of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.

Faculty and Planner Disclosures


  • Teri Brister, PhD, LPC, is Director of Information & Support at NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Dr. Brister serves as SMI Adviser's patient and family engagement expert. She reports no financial relationships with commercial interests.
  • Patrick Hendry is Vice President of Peer Advocacy, Supports and Services for Mental Health America (MHA). Mr. Hendry serves as SMI Adviser's recovery and peer-to-peer engagement expert. He reports no financial relationships with commercial interests. 


  • Amy N. Cohen, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles. Reports no financial relationships with commercial interests. 
  • Tristan Gorrindo, MD, American Psychiatric Association. Reports no financial relationships with commercial interests.
  • Donna Rolin, PhD, APRN, University of Texas at Austin. Reports no financial relationships with commercial interests. 

Accessibility for Participants with Disabilities

The American Psychiatric Association is committed to ensuring accessibility of its website to people with disabilities. If you have trouble accessing any of APA’s online resources, please contact us at 202-559-3900 for assistance.

Hardware/Software Requierments

This internet-based CME activity is best experienced using Internet Explorer 8+, Mozilla Firefox 3+, Safari 4+. This website requires that JavaScript and session cookies be enabled. Certain activities may require additional software to view multimedia, presentation, or printable versions of the content. These activities will be marked as such and will provide links to the required software. That software may be: Adobe Flash, Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Windows Media Player.

Optimal System Configuration

  • Browser: Firefox (latest version), Internet Explorer 8.0+, Safari 7.0+, Microsoft Edge (latest version) or Google Chrome (latest version)
  • Operating System: Windows XP+ or Mac OS X 10.4+
  • Flash Player: Adobe Flash Player 10.3+ 
  • Internet Connection: 1 Mbps or higher

Minimum Requirements

  • Windows PC: 500-MHz Pentium II; Windows XP or higher; 128 MB RAM; Video Card at least 64MB of video memory; Macromedia Flash Player 10.3 or higher; Sound Card at least 16-bit; audio playback with speakers for programs with video content
  • Macintosh:Mac OS X 10.4+ or higher with latest updates installed; 1.83MHz Intel Core Duo or faster; RAM: 128MB or more; Video Card: at least 64MB of video memory; Sound Card: at least 16-bit; audio playback with speakers for programs with video content

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