If you're one of the many people across the country who sees a therapist, then you know how important your therapist is to your well-being. However, you might not realize that there is proper etiquette to consider when it comes to expressing your gratitude to your therapist. That's why I've put together this list of dos and don'ts for observing Thank Your Therapist Week. So, whether you're a long-time patient or just starting out, make sure to follow these guidelines and show your therapist how much you appreciate them!
DO: Consider giving a hand-written thank you card.
There are many ways to say “thank you” that don’t require a physical gift. In fact, your therapist may prefer not to receive physical gifts. You may have noticed, writing notes or journaling is a practice therapists often recommend as a great way to explore your thoughts and emotions. Why not turn this practice around and use it to communicate the positive impact that your therapist has made on your life? Whether you hand the card to your therapist directly or mail it to their office, receiving a note like this may just make your therapist’s day.
DON’T: Buy extravagant gifts.
This should go without saying, but you can’t buy your therapist a new MacBook and more importantly, they can’t accept it. This includes gift cards. All therapists are bound by codes of ethics, so you don’t want to put them in a bind by giving them something that they can’t accept like an expensive gift. Avoid this awkward conversation by keeping your gift small and thoughtful.
DO: Give an appropriate gift.
If you must give a physical gift, be sure to spend no more than $10. Some therapists may be uncomfortable with receiving a gift of monetary value, so be sure that your token of appreciation is reasonable.
Here are some appropriate gift ideas your therapist might appreciate:
Mental health pin
Canvas tote bag
DON’T: Give food, whether it’s homemade or bought.
You don't know about your therapist’s food allergies, likes, or dislikes. Even if they have mentioned that they love banana bread, please don't bake banana bread for them. Your therapist most likely will not accept it.
DO: Give feedback.
Don’t worry, your therapist is likely very good at giving and receiving feedback. You can show your appreciation for them by providing them with meaningful feedback and share what has helped you and what was difficult. Your therapist would probably also appreciate it if you left a positive review on their practice’s website or Google page. Keep in mind that some of these spaces, like Google, won’t allow you to leave anonymous reviews. You have to consider your anonymity when you are submitting reviews. You can leave an anonymous review about how the therapist has helped you personally.
DON’T: Hug or touch your therapist.
Part of practicing trauma-informed care is acknowledging that trauma is so prevalent that we should assume the person we are with has experienced a trauma. Many traumas have a "touch" component. For example, I have treated many patients who have gotten back rubs or massages before being harmed by a family member. Since your therapist is a human, with a personal history you may never be aware of, you don't want to touch them for any reason unless you have permission or they are in serious danger. Additionally, some people just aren't touchy people. They don't enjoy hugging or being physically close to others. That doesn't mean they aren't intimate with others emotionally; they just have strong boundaries with their physical bodies. Since you don't know what those boundaries are, it’s best not to cross them.
HONORABLE MENTION: Don’t buy clothes. You don't know your therapist's size or style. Even if you find an amazing t-shirt that has a mental health saying on it, don't do it. You could offend someone if you purchased an extra-large shirt when they wear a large. YIKES!
DO: Just ask.
Talk to your therapist about appropriate ways to show your appreciation. The fact that you want to demonstrate your appreciation of them is sure to give them the warm and fuzzies.
REMEMBER: Don't be offended if you offer any of these tokens and your therapist doesn't accept them. We each have ethical standards we must adhere to, and it is not reflective of how we feel about our patients.
Thanking your therapist is a way of acknowledging the hard work they do and the impact they've had on your life. It may be difficult to find the words to express gratitude, but even a simple "thank you" can mean a lot to your therapist.