One of the leading principles of modern positive therapy practices is the lending of one’s own skills and support to another, and the seeking of harmonious and effective support networks for those going through difficult times emotionally and mentally. For most mental health professionals, it’s a joy to be of service to clients, whether it’s extending a favor or working towards the gift of mental well-being. But a new study has revealed that some people, especially in times of distress, are averted to gifts and favors, particularly for the sense of social obligation that these things carry.
The research, carried out by Jean-Sébastien Marcoux at HEC Montreal, was a long-term effort conducted over the course of ten years, and presents an impressive array of subjects and circumstances. Marcoux focused his data gathering on a certain situation in which we are frequently both distressed and involved in an activity where favors and gift-giving are common: moving. The researcher pointed out that while not all moving experiences are negative, most are stressful by their very nature, and a large percentage are necessitated by unsettling events such as a divorce, the loss of a job, or death. In these stressful situations, Marcoux found that people tend to decline offers of help and exhibit an aversion to gifts, often because they don’t wish to experience the social pressure and sense of obligation involved.
The research has many implications for related markets, as the reluctance to receive products and services as favors leads to the need to purchase these items directly. But the findings are important for therapy, as well; the notion that offering more when clients are upset or feeling indebted may not be the best practice.
© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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