Gifts in Psychotherapy: Ethical and Clinical Considerations
Online Course Materials: Articles Audios Articles Videos
Developed by Ofer Zur, Ph.D.
Course fulfills, fully or in part, the Ethics & Law requirements for psychologists in CA and for psychologists, social workers, counselors, and addiction counselors in other states. Verify requirements with your state board.
General Course Description
Giving gifts is an ancient and common way to express gratitude, appreciation and love. Gifts in psychotherapy and counseling are very common and often take place around the holidays, in termination, at an important junction of therapy and with children-clients. Therapists have not only received gifts but have also been regularly engaged in gift giving to clients. Usually this involves symbolic gifts, greeting cards, transitional objects, souvenirs from vacations or educational material, such as books, audiotapes or CDs. While traditional psychoanalysis has frowned upon gift giving in therapy and many therapists are reluctant or afraid to talk about it, the fact is that most therapists practice it regularly and find it acceptable and helpful as long as the gifts are symbolic, nor too expensive and appropriate. Unlike commonly held beliefs, appropriate gift giving in therapy is neither unethical nor constitutes dual relationships. Uncritical and rigid across-the-board rejection of all gifts or putting in place “No gift policies” are likely to make clients feel rejected and humiliated, harm the therapeutic alliance and interfere with the therapeutic progress.
This comprehensive introductory course consists of a short introductory video and one audio in two parts which explores the clinical, ethical and cultural issues of gift giving by clients and therapists (transcripts provided). It reviews the importance of understanding the context and meaning of gift giving and cautions against automatic rejection of appropriate gifts. At the same time the article encourages therapists, when appropriate, to explore with the client the meaning and intent of the gift giving. Additionally, it looks at the importance of cultural and contextual factors in gift giving. The course also covers concerns with wealthy clients, gifts that are given though clients’ inherences, obsessive or inappropriate giving by clients and gifts that may create conflict of interest. Finally, it provides codes of ethics and summary guidelines for gift giving in psychotherapy and counseling. Additional resources and references are provided for further study, but they are not part of the course.
- This course will teach the participant to
- Demonstrate the importance and meaning, timing, culture and context of gifts by clients.
- Evaluate their own gift giving practices.
- Review the ethical and clinical complexities relevant to gift giving.
- Summarize guidelines for gift giving in psychotherapy.
- Types of gifts by clients
- Gift and therapeutic boundaries
- Wealthy clients
- Gifts for referrals
- Gifts through inheritance
- Cultural aspects
- Therapists’ gifts to clients
- Theoretical orientations on gift giving
- Risk management considerations
- Ethics of gift giving
- Sample medications and other gifts by pharmaceutical companies
- Summary & Guidelines