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By Imei Hsu, RN, LMHC, Artist

After spending over an hour selecting and haggling over the price of a heavily-beaded dance costume in Paris, the teller wrapped up the dress and placed it inside a large bag, followed by her heavily accented voice asking me which “Cadeaux” I wanted. The queue behind me wound from the cash register to the door. Babies cried. I still didn’t know what she was asking, until someone behind me said in plain English, “Gift. Which gift do you want?”  Oh, she is offering me a free gift! Considing my purchase was over $500, a free gift in the form of some earrings or a necklace less than $5 doesn’t seem like a big deal, but suddenly everyone was smiling and waiting for the American to pick a gift. I selected the shiny earrings. A little girl applauded.  To no one’s surprise, everyone likes something free.

What Is My Gift To You?

Everyone likes free stuff (called Cadeaux in French). Learn how to get and give gifts that keep giving for years to come.

In the medical field, Practitioners are not supposed to give monetary or otherwise physically valuable gifts to patients, as this affects the professional relationship we have. There are typically only two times we’re encouraged to give a card or small gift (a pen, magnet, calendar, or other swag) from our businesses, or receive gifts from our clients, other than at your birthday: New Year’s Day, and July 4th in America.

Cadeaux (the French plural of cadeau) can also mean praise, accolades, or props. I’ve come to think of my Practice as a place where I can give other kinds of gifts that keep giving:


presence and attention
care and concern
regular feedback
a safe and comfortable space
a community (on the blog)

To add to that, I’ve been working on physical Cadeaux that people might like:

SoundCloud audio recordings of excerpts of my work
Resource guides on a variety of topics, such as Depression, Anxiety, and Divorce
My book, “Designing Your Practice: An Artist’s Approach”(many copies for free)
Podcasts and CD recordings as gifts to share
Recorded coaching sessions on how to run a small biz in the Helping Professions
Video sessions on the intersections of Social Media, Technology, and Psychology

While I can’t give away monetary gifts (though apparently some doctors jumping on the patient-centered care bandwagon do, I realize I give away my life and my work on a regular basis, and the reward is not only a growing practice, but a deep sense of satisfaction in seeing individuals, couples, and families grow.

What Is Your Gift To Me?

I’ve had friends, colleagues, and other professionals ask me why I enjoy working with people in the field of Counseling Psychology. Essentially, they are asking, “Besides being paid for your work, what do you like about what you do with people?” One of the amazing side benefits of the work I do is seeing at surgeon-close level the stories, choices, and recovery of hundreds of people over 2.5 decades between my work as a Triage and Community Nurse and a Psychotherapist. Through these lives, I have lived many lives, plumed the depths of questions that I might not otherwise have faced, and built my character through the courageous choices of others. Your gifts to me are:

presence and attention
stories that cause me to ponder and become inspired
hope in humanity and the power of love
feedback that helps me improve on what I do

And of course, your willingness to work with me supports my life as a Writer and Artist without having to depend on them for my livelihood and a lifestyle that keeps me healthy, responsible, and happy.

What Is Our Gift To Others?
Ultimately, our gifts to one another in the therapy room are meant to be the practice ground for the world awaiting us on the other side of the office door. I’ve been reminded that session time is the microcosm of the world “out there,” and taking the time to rehearse who we are and what we share of ourselves beyond the waiting room is akin to the final rehearsal before the Big Show. That Big Show could be a family event (such as a wedding, funeral, death of a loved one, birth of a new baby, reunion, a split), an important conversation (such as financial changes, moving an aging parent into the home, where to send junior to college, loss or significant change in work or work status, a betrayal), and times of renewing commitment (such as getting the kids on board with a new spouse, asking for someone’s hand in marriage, moving in together, moving the family across the country for a job).

The gifts we give each other never stop in the therapy room. They resonate in our families, in our communities, our places of work, and then onto our causes and interests. What you learn about listening, speaking, and collaborating in the therapy office become the template you can use almost anywhere, such as deescalating an angry person, or helping yourself to hear your real needs.

Do these sound like awesome gifts that keep giving? I’m looking forward to giving more of these “cadeaux” through the summer months of 2012 and beyond. Allison (my Associate at SDC) is also looking to this as well. Let Summer 2012 be the time you come in and help yourself create your most satisfying life!

P.S. As a special bonus to the regular readers and subscribers of this blog and website, here’s a video I recorded in 2010 when I was interested in packing myself off like a gift for a program called, “Museum for  a Month”. Silly me, just demonstrating what it might be like to live out of box! The gift is never the “thing”; it’s always what each of us bring to the table.

By Imei Hsu

Imei Hsu is a mental health counselor, active retired RN, AIP Coach and PN1-NC, writer, triathlete and arts promoter in the Seattle area and through online services. With 30+ years in healthcare (22+ years in mental health), Imei has a commitment to helping people discover insight into their health, relationships, and connecting. She is the owner of Seattle Direct Counseling and the blog, a presenter and speaker on a variety of psychological topics, and a positive force on the Internet. She launched her personal project, My Allergy Advocate, in 2018. Imei is a two-time Ironman Finisher (Mont-Tremblant 2016, Ironman Canada 2018); she also finished her first ultramarathon in 2017 and has gone on to race the 100K distance while preparing for 100 Mile trail races and a backyard ultra. You can find her running everywhere and eating all the thingz, watching movies, camping under the stars, and cooking real food.

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