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What to Actually Gift Your Therapist This Holiday Season

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As I mindlessly scrolled through Facebook (like I do much too often), an article popped up from The Mighty. “Should You Give Your Therapist a Holiday Gift?” the headline asked.

Immediately, my answer came to mind: no.  

As a therapist, I’ve been in this gift-receiving situation before. It happens mostly around Thanksgiving/Christmas, but also near my birthday (yes, some clients know my birthday. I don’t publicize it but if asked, I’ll share: just not my birth year)!

I clicked the link and read very thoughtful responses to this question from 10 different mental health clinicians. In summary, all 10 seemed to agree with the following: therapists are not supposed to accept gifts from clients, but it’s tricky because if you decline a gift, you may offend the gift-giver.

Like I mentioned, I’ve been faced with this dilemma in the past. The ethical guidelines of my profession advise against accepting a gift of any kind from a client. Yet, I’ve received a number of gifts over the years: baked goods, lotion, candles, books, candy and even my much-known vice: diet Coke.

I’ve accepted these gifts, first and foremost, because of how incredibly thoughtful they were. Plus, due to my therapeutic relationship with the client, I considered declining may cause more harm than good. I always express my gratitude and I do mention gifts are not expected (with the hope they don’t give me more presents in the future).

Sometimes, these gifts are accompanied by greeting cards. Or, I am handed a gift card/one arrives in the office mail.

Wishes for a peaceful holiday season and snowy landscapes are common themes, signed by the client who so wonderfully remembered me during this hectic time of year.

Then there are the cards that say thank you

It may not be surprising to know therapists don’t often receive much feedback about their work, especially if you’re in a private practice like I am. Most days, I don’t know if I’m doing a good job or making a difference. I can see progress or occasionally someone recognizes me for helping with a certain problem or with a coping skill that was helpful. But as for the rest of the time, I just have to trust I’m doing the best I can and hope that’s somehow making a difference.

When I get cards that say, “Thank you for being there for me,” “You accept me for who I am” or “I wouldn’t have made it through this year without you,” — this is truly the best gift I could ever receive.

If you’re wondering whether or not to get your therapist a gift, consider a card with a message of thanks included. That’s worth more than anything else we could hope to receive this holiday season.

Getty image by Zolga_F

Originally published: November 18, 2019
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