Hear is a recent question I receive that I asked to share with the rest of you.
“I am wondering if you would be able to post some pictures of how you dress up for your counselling sessions to give me/us some ideas of what to wear to reflect a professional self. I think that would be helpful to a lot of new counsellors.”
A huge part of private practice is finding your own style, whether it’s in your work with clients, or your actual outfits. Here is my thought process around what to wear in sessions. Ultimately it comes down to you and your clients. Take what feels useful and leave the rest behind.
Start with you
Who you are in session needs to be reflective of your personal brand. If your personal brand is casual and approachable, the clothes you choose to wear in session should reflect that. You may choose to wear dressy jeans or casual dress pants, work-casual tops and cardigans. If your personal brand is more formal, your outfits may lean towards suits, blazers and dress shoes. Also, consider the type of work you do. Do you need to be able to move around? Do you use art supplies that could get on your clothes? Every person’s situation is different so make sure your clothes make sense for what you’ll be doing with clients.
Next, who are your clients?
As a general rule of thumb – Once you figure that out, dress to their level.
As with everything to do with your private practice, it’s important to be in alignment with your clients. If you want to work with high-end business people who will likely be showing up in suits, you probably want to wear something traditionally formal. If your population tends to be more casual, wearing a suit may create distance. In that case, they may want someone who dresses casually as well. These are obviously generalities, but something to consider when planning your work outfits.
Ask yourself: What will put your clients at ease so they can focus on their work with you?
When choosing work clothes, here are some questions to keep in mind:
1) Is it comfortable?
Our job can require sitting still for long periods of time. Anything that is too tight or constricting can make for a very long and uncomfortable day.
2) Is it distracting?
Personally I try to avoid anything with words or things that may draw attention, such as really bold prints or distinctive pieces ( jewelry, etc.) With words, you never know how a client may interpret a saying or a word. Since there are already so many other transference issues to keep an eye on, I would rather avoid adding another variable into the mix. With really distinctive patterns or pieces, they can sometimes make it hard for clients to focus. I also tend to wear higher neck shirts or scarves, and tights or leggings under dresses to avoid potentially flashing clients when leaning forward or shifting in my chair.
Ultimately I don’t want the attention for the session to be on me or what I’m wearing, so I try to keep my outfits professional but subtle.
3) Do you feel confident in it?
When you step in front of a client, you are stepping into the role of helping professional. Wearing something you like and feel happy about yourself in can be like putting on a suit of armour. No matter what you’re wearing, just make sure you feel good in it. The more confident you feel, the more you can focus on your clients.
So that’s my two cents. I would love to hear your comments below about what you wear to the office, and how you decide what works for you?
If you have a question like this you would like answered in an upcoming blog post, you can email connect[at]TheBusinessOfHelping.com or comment on the facebook page.