Ideally, you call them by their names. I would love to just call them people. However, when I am talking to other OTs, I usually do not want to be using their names, and how do I describe the relationship? I try not to offend anyone, but that seems to be getting harder and harder to do.
They used to be "patients". Many doctors still use this term, and one setting I practiced in used it, although I tended to resist. I am uncomfortable with it, as it implies a medical model of practice. It implies that I think I know what is best for you, which just is not right. The people I provide a service to know a lot more than I do about themselves - I just offer tools that hopefully will be helpful.
I never liked the word "consumers". I have used the term, when asked to, but it never seemed right. It says that people are consuming services. To me, this implies that they are somehow a burden, which again is just not right. Besides, it is not specific enough. Aren't we all consumers?
I have also worked places where people have been called "residents". This seems to work in a personal care home environment, but not many other places.
Lately, many people with mental health issues have been called "persons with lived experience". If you prefer to be called this, I am sorry, but I really don't like it. Lived experience of what? Doesn't everyone have lived experience?
I continue to use the word "client" to describe the people I provide a service to. I think it describes the relationship we have - I provide services that the client chooses to use or not to use. However, this word will not work in every setting. It can only be used when you are able to be client-centred and are not having to convince people to do things they do not want to do.
What words do you prefer?