I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this, but social workers are so essential. They provide services in hospitals, community agencies, schools, shelters, therapy offices (yes, your therapist could be a social worker), and many other places. If you’re someone who regularly sees a social worker for services, you may be wondering if it’s appropriate to say thank you by giving them a gift.
“It’s definitely not planned,” says Karen Balumbu-Bennett, a licensed clinical social worker in Los Angeles. “Social workers really learn not to accept gifts.” Basically, gifts put social workers in an awkward position because they don’t want to hurt you, but they generally don’t accept gifts from the people they serve. She notes that as a customer, you are already paying them (in some cases). In addition, giving them a gift can also complicate the working relationship. “It’s not a tip-based service. We don’t want our customers to feel like they have to give us something extra,” she says.
If you want to redirect that gifting impulse, something like a card or a little thing you made yourself could be a nice way to say thank you to your social worker. And if you do eventually decide to give them a gift, keep it small and inexpensive.
However, if you are shopping for a social worker who does not work for you (like a friend or relative), you can of course spoil them. Balumbu-Bennett says, “I would say anything to take care of myself. Because helping professionals doesn’t care about themselves. We’ve rounded up some of the best self-care gifts along with other fun and useful things you can gift to your best friend or a loved one who is doing good as a social worker.