Gift from Clients in Psychologist’s Ethics


Ethics constitutes rules and regulations that are used to guide the conduct of individuals or members of a given profession (MacVean & Neyround, 2012). In this regard, an ethical dilemma can be defined as a complex situation that usually entails an ostensible mental conflict between two or more moral choices. To this, to succumb to one option would lead to the transgression of another. Alternatively, an ethical dilemma can be referred to as an ethical paradox (Garber, 2008).

Case Scenario: Accepting a Gift from Clients

There are situations in which a psychologist may be presented with an ethical dilemma concerning the acceptance of a gift from a client (Lo, 2013). Often, when a patient presents a psychologist with a specific gift, the issue of whether accepting such a gift is ethical or unethical raises a lot of concerns (Lo, 2013). This case scenario is said to present a substantial ethical dilemma, especially for moral, ethical, and professional aspects. Concerning moral implication, it is wrong to be paid for a professional service and then get extra benefits in the form of a gift (Lo, 2013). The psychologist-client relationship is fiduciary. Therefore, the psychologist strictly owes a sense of devotion to the client; accepting gifts violates this devotion. Besides, to avoid conflicts of interest and maintain professional boundaries, it is always important that a psychologist should only engage with the clients on an official basis. Therefore, to ensure this, I would take specific steps to embrace ethical practices in my work. These steps are detailed in the subsequent paragraphs.

The first step I would take is to determine whether there would be an ethical issue concerning taking gifts from clients. In this case, the ethical problems are twofold: it is wrong to accept a gift from a client who has paid for services rendered to him or her. It is also wrong to take gifts from patients within a professional context where the only relationship existing is purely fiduciary.

My second step would be to identify the fundamental values and principles involved in such a case. Concerning this, I would look at the available code of ethics governing the relationship between professional healthcare providers and their clients. In this case, I would look at the ethical principles outlined by the American Psychological Association.

The third step would be to rank the values and principles, which, in my expert judgment, would be the most relevant to the issue of taking gifts from clients. Therefore, there are value and principle that I would rank higher than the rest: the right of a client to get quality services at a predetermined fee without the need to pay for more, and my responsibility as a professional to always engage with clients at professional levels to avoid any conflict of interest.

In my fourth step, I would develop a specific action plan that would be in line with the ethical values and principles I would have identified in step three; this would involve consulting with my colleagues at work and the clients who would want to give me gifts after getting my professional services. The main aim of this would be to determine the potential risks of either taking the gifts or rejecting them. The action plan would form my long-term professional practice.

My last step would be to execute my action plan by using the most applicable practice competencies and capabilities. In this case, I would have to use my communication skills on sensitive matters and cultural competence while dealing with the clients. I would continuously reflect on this ethical decision process to ensure that I would retain ethical and professional practices at work while taking care not to disappoint clients who would seek my expert services, especially those who would like to give me gifts.

Solutions from APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct

The APA has six general principles and ethical standards that can be used to resolve this dilemma. The principles and codes of conduct constitute appropriate references that can be used to solve ethical issues faced by social scientists, especially psychologists (Fisher, 2013). Under the ethical standard number eight, the APA provides for ways of resolving ethical issues. When faced with a moral dilemma like that of accepting gifts from clients, under the eight standard of ethical conduct, the APA provides specific instances in which such issues can be tackled (Fisher, 2013).

For instance, to resolve the ethical problems, a practitioner is required to be familiar with the ethics code; the practitioner is also required to observe specific rules when confronting ethical matters. These two standards of ethical conduct are very instrumental in resolving the dilemma of a professional psychologist who may be faced with the issue of acceptance of gifts from clients (Fisher, 2013). Being familiar with the code of ethics is essential when deciding whether or not to accept clients’ gifts (Fisher, 2013). Second, the American Psychological Association’s standard code of ethics provides that when a psychologist is not particular as to whether a specific situation or procedure would contradict the ethics code, then the psychologist should consult with his or her peers (Fisher, 2013).

The implication of the Ethical Decision-Making Process and Actions

My ethical decision-making and conduct would probably disappoint the clients who would try to give me gifts; a client often provides gifts out of his or her own free will and hence would expect immediate acceptance. However, since my personal ethical decision would prevent me from accepting the gifts, the clients would most likely get disappointed and probably stop seeking my services. As a professional, the implication for me is that I would possibly lose favor with them. Nonetheless, since my belief is not to accept gifts from clients when I am discharging my professional duty, it would mean that I find practical strategies that would enable me to maintain a good relationship with the clients. Moreover, I would have a hard time trying to convince the clients that accepting gifts besides fees paid for my professional duty would not right.


Ethics is very fundamental in terms of regulating the conduct of individuals and members of a given profession (MacVean & Neyround, 2012). For this, an ethical dilemma presents typically one with tough choices concerning specific behaviors (Garber, 2008). In cases where there are ethical dilemmas, an individual or a professional may use specific codes of ethics to make the most appropriate decisions. It is important to note that the American Psychological Association has clear ethical principles and code of conduct that can be used by social scientists, especially the practicing psychologists, to make appropriate decisions where they are faced with ethical dilemmas (Jacob & Hartshorne, 2010).


Fisher, C. B. (2013). Decoding the Ethics Code: A practical Guide for Psychologists. Web.

Garber, P. (2008). The Ethical Dilemma. Amherst, MA: Human Resource Development.

Lo, B. (2013). Resolving Ethical Dilemmas: A Guide for Clinicians. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

MacVean, A., & Neyround, P. (2012). Police Ethics and Values. London, UK: SAGE.