Law and Ethics Exam Prep: Gifts

By Maria Denardo on April 25, 2023

Is it legal for therapists to accept gifts from clients? Is it ethical? At what point is a gift considered too valuable? These are just a few of the questions we receive from associates who struggle with the nuance of gift-giving within the therapeutic relationship. The short answer is that there are no legal or ethical prohibitions against giving or receiving gifts between therapists and clients. And there’s no set guidelines for the monetary value of gifts. However, depending on the situation, ethical dilemmas (like dual relationships) and legal ramifications can arise when a potential gift exchange is not appropriately handled according to professional standards of care.

When you take the California law and ethics exam, you can expect to see two to three questions related to gift-giving, at the most. But we want these questions to be easy points for you, so you can raise your score! Our CA MFT and LCSW Law & Ethics study programs will prepare you on how to effectively evaluate a host of interrelated elements to assess gift scenarios on the exam. To get you started, here’s a few questions to consider when analyzing a vignette on gifts:

  • What is the meaning of the gift and motivation of the client?
  • What is the clinical implication if the therapist rejects or accepts the gift?
  • What is the monetary value of the gift?
  • What is the cultural significance of the gift?

Ready for a FREE law and ethics practice question about accepting gifts from therapy clients?

Practice Question: Accepting Gifts From Therapy Clients

A Native American client presents their new therapist with a homemade gift after initiating treatment 2 weeks ago. The gift is personally significant to the client. The therapist estimates that the value of the gift may be high if it were sold in a boutique. Ethically, what should the therapist do FIRST?

A. Accept the gift with gratitude.

B. Consult with a colleague regarding the appropriateness of the gift.

C. Explore the cultural importance of the gift.

D. Acknowledge the act but decline the gift.

(Scroll for answer and rationale.)







The correct answer is C: Explore the cultural importance of the gift. The act of giving a gift, and the timing of the gift, has different meanings across different cultures. Sensitivity to a client’s culture is imperative in providing insight, understanding, and respect of a client’s customs and rituals around gifts. So, this would be an important FIRST step. Answer A jumps too far ahead by accepting the gift without discussion of cultural significance; meaning or motivation of the client; clinical implications; and so forth. Likewise, Answer D does not take into account the impact of culture and does not include a discussion about the gift with the client. Answer B could be a second step after C is done if the therapist was still concerned about the monetary value of the gift after establishing any possible cultural significance.

MFT & LCSW Exam Preparation:

Are you ready for more test prep questions to prepare you for your licensure exams?

TDC offers thorough, in-depth programs for MFT CA Law & Ethics, MFT CA Clinical, LCSW CA Law & Ethics, and AMFTRB exams that provide everything you need to successfully PASS your exams with confidence. And these programs even include access to coaching!

If you need to complete the 3-hour law and ethics CE course before the next license registration period, we offer 2 BBS-approved courses that fulfill this requirement. Both courses are 6 hours. You can choose between either. Here is a discount code that will allow you to save on the course: L&E2023

You can access the courses HERE or HERE.

Already licensed? Check out our continuing education library that includes a range of courses from Gestalt Therapy to Clinical Supervision.


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