Some people might consider this unnecessary, but the fact remains that your dress sense creates the first impression for your clients. People can easily judge you by what you wear without getting to know who you truly are. Imagine a busty marriage counselor whose boobs are not properly covered, no woman will be comfortable leaving her husband with her, especially in certain parts of the world. The impact of proper dressing on a counselor’s career cannot be over emphasized; in fact, some clients might not be comfortable with extremely gorgeous counselors/therapists.

Consider your field of counseling and dress appropriately. Dressing neatly, professionally and well covered is very important for professional therapist. People will take you more seriously when you appear formal, maybe not too formal, but definitely not casual.


1. Clothing that is foreign to your clientele
It is important to consider your clientele and dress appropriately. What may be perfect for a private practice serving adult professionals may be off-putting when working with a homeless population.

Some traditional clothing from minority cultures might be appropriate if members of that culture are the only clients you serve. Otherwise, it may be a distraction to both clients from the dominate culture or and those from other minority cultures. It could even be a distraction to members of the same culture.

If your dress code allows, try to dress one to two steps above what a typical client would wear. If your clients are mostly blue-collar, business casual would be great. If the clients wear business casual, you’re probably going to need to step it up a notch.

If you’re working with homeless, keep it simple but professional and never pretentious. If young children are your primary focus, you probably need something that allows you get in the floor without violating common decency standards.

2. A bold statement of personal identity
Remember, the counseling relationship is not about you. While you may have an awesome presentation in your personal life, clients don’t need to be bombarded with the message of your personal identity and beliefs. Again, it’s not about you.

Flashy or statement jewelry, excessive tattoos, lapel pins and other statements of personal identity don’t really belong in the counseling relationship. Save them for after hours and weekends. While a few clients may think your nose ring and ear gauges are cool…many others will not take you or your counseling interventions seriously.

3. Radical or faddish hairstyles
Hairstyle can be a little more difficult because it’s not a matter of putting it on and taking it off. Primary colors, cutting edge styles or the latest fads in facial hair can distract attention from the client and the work at hand. While a few clients may find you more “real” as a result of your style, others may be put off by it. Bold hair colors and styles are acceptable and even appropriate for many fields and professions…this is not one of them.

4. Excessive makeup
One should be thankful men are not expected to wear makeup in our culture because of the process that many women endure almost daily. It would be great if we could get beyond the societal pressures for women to wear some type of makeup but we are not there. As a result, make-up is probably a fact of life for many female counselors. Wear it tastefully. Use it to hide blemishes and imperfections. Just do not go overboard or try to present yourself in a sexual manner. Your lips don’t need to be super shiny fire engine kiss me red for a counseling session. Tri-color eye shadow is not necessary. Your eyelashes don’t need to be extra thick and two inches long.

5. Overpowering cologne or perfumes
Some of us are very sensitive to perfumes and other odors. Again, you are not looking for a mate here so save some of the more memorable scents for after hours. You do not want to be known as that counselor that “smells really good.” You also don’t want to be the one that “makes my eyes burn.”

6. Wrinkled or worn clothing
You don’t have to spend a fortune on clothing to look nice. While more expensive clothing can sometimes last longer, you can still find good quality clothing at an affordable price. While one may wear shorts at home with a hole in the leg, he should never consider doing that with work clothes.

Your clothing should be clean and unwrinkled. You do not want to look like you grabbed your cleanest dirty shirt as you rushed out the door. Either you learn to iron, have someone else do it, or buy clothes that really do not require much care. Keep your clothes clean and folded or on hangers. Wrinkle resistant does not mean you can throw it in the corner and expect to look professional the next day.

7. Symbols of wealth or extravagance
A few clients might be impressed with your Rolex watch or designer clothes but most will start thinking seriously about your hourly rate. Even if your clients have money, they probably would not be impressed with obvious symbols of wealth. You are probably not going to impress them, or anyone else for that matter, with displays of extravagance.

8. Clothing that emphasizes sexuality
Your attractiveness and sexuality should never be the focal point of the counseling relationship. Unfortunately, some counselors wear attire that, while perfectly appropriate for other settings, are sending the wrong messages for a counselor’s office.

Skirts that are too short, blouses that show cleavage, men with shirts unbuttoned to show their chest, or pants that are snug in all the wrong places may be acceptable in other professions but can be a real distraction in a counseling office. Remember, you are not looking for a date; you are helping people work through some of their most personal and difficult problems.

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