This gift is for you! an exploration of counsellors personal views on the meaning of gifts and their gift-giving experiences in therapy

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Nesler, Rudolf Marco
Issue Date
BA (Hons) Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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Gift-giving is an important interpersonal transaction that has not received much attention in psychotherapy literature. However, in practice, therapists often receive gifts from clients and are challenged to understand the meaning of gifts and respond to them therapeutically. Although a larger number of quantitative studies have been published in recent decades, there still exists little qualitative research into the meaning of gifts. The objective of this study is to explore therapists’ underlying beliefs around gifts, and how those relate to their use of gifts in therapy. A qualitative research approach was applied in this research project to this purpose, and six therapists shared their attributed meaning to gifts in therapy during a semi-structured interview process. Using the thematic analysis approach to analyse the data, four major themes emerged: (1) Love as the primary meaning of gifts in therapists’ personal lives, (2) Therapists’ response pattern to receiving a gift, (3) Therapists’ attribution of meaning to gifts, and (4) Ethical codes, training and supervision as sources of meaning. The results show that therapists identify gifts in their personal life mainly as an expression of love. Most therapists assign a high significance to gifts both in their personal life and therapy. Their response patterns to receiving gifts vary considerably, though, ranging from a mere acknowledgement to a proactive contextual exploration of the meaning of gifts together with the client. In general, ethical codes, training and supervision are considered highly influential with regard to the handling of gifts. From these findings, it would appear that the significance of gifts in therapy is acknowledged by most therapists today, but the attribution of meaning and the response to gifts can differ considerably. Through investigating the participating therapists’ own response pattern, their views on gifts were challenged. Therefore, this research hopes to provide psychotherapists and counsellors with a renewed appreciation of how gift-giving may further the therapeutic process.