A few years ago, I had a friend who was planning to open a bookstore in her hometown. She wanted to create a space for families with a large children’s section, a performance space for open mics and musicians, and a coffee bar with seating outside.
My friend had a finance background and had put together a very impressive business plan with financial projections and floor plans for a large retail space that had been vacant for several years. When she spoke about the store, her eyes lit up in a way I had not seen since we had gone to college together. But the whole time, I kept thinking, how would she do this?
She was already a very busy woman. She had three children under twelve and a husband who traveled at least three months out of the year. She also did volunteer work and had an older parent about an hour away who needed her help regularly. So opening a start-up business would make her busy life busier.
“I know it’s a ridiculous thought, but I think this bookstore would be my dream job,” she told me. It would be a way to use my brain and my experience and help the community too.” I asked her if she would like my candid opinion or if she would like my unbridled support. She smiled and said, “Be candid with me.”
“All right, I will. I think it may be a little more than you can do on your own. I don’t doubt you can do it, but I’m worried about your anxiety. I know how you were when we were in graduate school. You are a perfectionist, and your inability to let things go means you will wind up doing everything, sleeping a few hours a night, and eventually burn out.”
She thanked me for being truthful with her and promised me that she would think long and hard about it. About a week later, I found out that she would go ahead and start renovations on the storefront.
We stayed in touch, and almost a year later, I got an invitation to the store opening. I was pretty excited. My friend did it again!
When I got to the store opening, it was packed and really exciting. She had done a beautiful job, and it would be a hub for their town that needed a space for people to come together. She looked tired but energetic. The evening was a great success.
That said, her husband told me her insomnia was causing her some problems meeting deadlines. And he also confirmed what I had heard from a friend, her mom was not doing well and would soon need professional care. I told him I would call her in a day or so to see if I could get her to seek help.
On my way home. I thought about telling her, “I think you need therapy.” And because of how therapy has been pathologized in the United States, there is still so much shame around admitting you need help.
Then I had an idea; wouldn’t it be great if I could give her a gift certificate for therapy? I could put it in a letter or a card, and she could do with it what she wanted. It was not so confrontational, and I thought it would have a better chance of getting her to take the following steps.
I Googled around and found a mental health practice with gift certificates for therapy. Delighted that they offered the service, I called them and found out I could buy a gift certificate in any amount, and they would put a credit on the books whenever my friend called to set up her first session.
I bought a certificate for one month worth of therapy and sent it along with this note:
As you know, I have been worried about your anxiety with all of your family responsibilities and now this fantastic new business. I can tell you as a fellow business owner. It seems like it doesn’t ever get easier. So if you feel like you need it now or you feel like you need it later, here’s a gift certificate for therapy. File it away and use it when you need it.
A few months went by, and I did not hear anything. And then I got a text message from my friend saying she had just left her first therapy session. She asked me if I had time to talk, and I called. I could tell she had been crying, but she also sounded relieved. She thanked me for the generosity of the gift and said to me that it was the catalyst she needed to get started.
That was a decade ago, and I have thought so many times about starting a mental wellness gift certificate program for our practice, Darien Wellness. So just in time for the holidays, I am delighted to be launching a mental wellness gift program.
The certificate can be for any amount and can be applied for therapy or for psychiatric services. If the gift recipient has insurance, the certificate will be used for their co-pays or coinsurances. And if they are out of network with our practice, the fees will go directly to paying the cost of services they receive.
If you think you know someone who is going through a hard time, a life transition, seasonal blues, or is struggling with personal or work issues, a mental wellness gift certificate is a great way to let them know you’re worried about them and you want to help.
Darien Wellness is a mental health group headquartered in downtown Darien, CT, but via the internet, they serve clients across all of Connecticut and Colorado as well. They are open seven days a week to meet their client’s busy schedules and have early morning and late-night hours. Interested in working with one of their clinicians for therapy, medication, or both? Call 203.883.0464, and a friendly client care specialist will help you find the best fit for you and your family.