Dressing professionally is a concern to most people; but it can be particularly problematic for female therapists. In this post, I will talk about proper tops and bottoms. Next week, I will tackle feet and hair.
Because of the focus on fashion, and the wider variety of choices, females generally have many more clothing options than males. This is both a blessing and a curse. Whereas it is a lot of fun to have many choices, there is also greater risk of making a mistake.
Because females are more likely to be sexualized in our society, sexual transference is usually more of an issue with female therapists, particularly when working with male clients. Where we can’t always stop our clients from thinking of us sexually, there are things we can do to help prevent it. Dressing conservatively and professionally is one such action.
One major consideration for females is the chest area. Many “professional” sweaters and tops are cut very low. Too low. What might look super cute at a party or bar has no place in the counseling office. Be sure to try tops on before purchasing. I am absolutely appalled at what passes for professional wear these days. If you can see cleavage, it’s too low and it needs to go back on the shelf where it belongs. And, ladies, when you are trying on tops please bend over at the waist in front of the mirror. This is the exact view clients will have when you bend over a filing cabinet to fish out a form or handout. If they can see your breasts or what color bra you are wearing it’s time to try a different top. One last thing on tops: don’t buy them if they are too tight. Button-down tops shouldn’t bulge in the middle and knit tops shouldn’t reveal bra straps or exactly how big your love handles are. If you wash your shirt and it shrinks, toss it or give it away. You want to be known for your stellar counseling skills and not your awesome breasts.
As for the bottom half, pants that fit too tightly are clearly an issue. If you can see outlines of body parts it’s time to go up a size. Pants should fit nicely and flow over curves. Pants and shirts also should not be too loose because it doesn’t look polished and professional. But if you are going to err, err on the large side because it’s safer. One more word about the bottom half: if you are purchasing a skirt please sit down in front of a mirror first. A slight glimpse of lower thigh or knee is OK, but you shouldn’t be able to see a few inches past your knees. Now cross your legs. Do you really want clients to know what color underwear you are wearing? I didn’t think so. You are not Sharon Stone and this is not Basic Instinct. (Millennials- I apologize for the obscure culture reference). If you still want to wear shorter skirts, invest in a few pair of thick hosiery for winter and a shawl for summer you can toss over your legs when you sit down “because your office is cold.” Do not tell clients that you purchase short skirts.
Yours in the Joy of Knowledge,