55 Self-Esteem Questions in Counseling to Ask Your Clients

An individual’s self-esteem forms the foundation of how they perceive themselves, encompassing their sense of value and worth. This subjective viewpoint includes personal feelings and beliefs regarding attractiveness, competence, and overall self-worth. Those with high self-esteem typically feel comfortable and confident in their abilities, while individuals grappling with low self-esteem may contend with self-doubt, insecurities, and feelings of inadequacy. Keep reading to learn 55 self-esteem questions in therapy to ask your clients.

While self-esteem is closely linked to mental health, the specific relationship with different mental health issues remains unclear. Self-esteem begins forming in childhood and is influenced by personal experiences. Adolescents often face stressors that can affect their mental well-being, including their self-esteem. High self-esteem serves as a protective factor against various mental health problems and disorders. Our self-esteem is not fixed; it can fluctuate over time as we encounter different life experiences. Research suggests that protective factors for adolescent self-esteem include resilience and social support, such as feeling understood, heard, and having access to supportive social networks.

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Self-esteem greatly influences an individual’s behaviors, contributing to the distress they may face. For instance, someone with low self-esteem might not consider themselves deserving of a raise or promotion, hindering their pursuit of growth opportunities. This avoidance could perpetuate stagnant income or job roles, reinforcing their negative self-perception. Behaviors and various aspects of life impacted by self-esteem encompass:

  • Achievement: Those who have high self-esteem may have higher goals, and put themselves in situations that have more opportunities for growth
  • Decision-making: Individuals with high self-esteem often make decisions that align with their goals and values, whereas others may have fear-based decisions
  • Emotional Regulation: Healthy coping skills are commonly associated with those who have high self-esteem, whereas others may utilize unhealthy coping skills such as avoidance and self-destructive behaviors
  • Relationships: Positive, and healthy relationships are associated with high self-esteem because individuals are more likely to set and maintain boundaries and advocate for themselves and their needs
  • Risk-taking: Those with high self-esteem tend to be more confident in taking risks that give them opportunities to grow, whereas others may avoid taking risks because of a fear of failure
  • Self-image: A positive self-image is more commonly found among those with high self-esteem when compared to those who struggle with their self-esteem

 Self-esteem is connected to various mental health concerns and challenges, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulties with attention
  • Eating Disorders
  • Personality disorder
  • Poor academic achievement in adolescents, teens, and young adults
  • Relationship concerns
  • Substance abuse disorders

Getting Ready for Your First Therapy Session with a New Client with Low Self-Esteem

As mentioned above, self-esteem is often intertwined with various mental health issues, which means that the referrals and self-assessments your clients provide may reveal additional mental health challenges as their main concerns. This underscores the importance of using a thorough intake assessment that delves into different aspects of their thoughts, behaviors, and emotions.

Before starting a session with a new client, it can be beneficial to review any paperwork you’ve received and use it to outline your assessment. As the session progresses, you can adjust your plan based on your client’s individual needs.

For subsequent sessions, having self-esteem questions and related worksheets ready can be useful. TherapyPatron offers a wealth of customizable, fillable, and printable mental health worksheets, making it a valuable resource for clinicians. Some examples of worksheets that may be helpful for clients struggling with low self-esteem and related issues include:

Self-Esteem Questions in Counseling to Ask Clients

In therapy, self-esteem questions serve as powerful tools for fostering personal growth and enhancing the self-worth of clients. These self-esteem questions provide a structured framework for examining thought patterns, identifying strengths, and challenging negative self-talk. By engaging in questions to build self-esteem, clients can improve their self-image and develop resilience in the face of challenges. Through collaborative exploration of self-esteem questions in therapy, clients can embark on a journey of self-discovery and empowerment, paving the way for greater confidence and well-being. Examples of questions that you could incorporate into your clinical work include:

  1. How do you believe that counseling could help you?
  2. What do you believe are your biggest areas for growth?
  3. Can you identify any negative self-talk patterns you experience? What triggers them, and how often do they come up for you?
  4. Can you tell me about what brought you in today?
  5. Can you recall a time when you felt proud of yourself? What did you accomplish, and how long did you feel proud?
  6. How do you typically respond to compliments? What emotions come up for you when someone compliments you?
  7. How do you handle criticism from others?
  8. What are some qualities you admire about yourself?
  9. How do you prioritize self-care in your life?
  10. Can you tell me about some of the self-care practices you have? What do you do for fun and enjoyment?
  11. What are your greatest strengths?
  12. How do you cope with failure or setbacks?
  13. How has your self-image shifted over the years? Was there a time in your life when it was different, or do you feel that it has been relatively consistent?
  14. In what areas of your life do you feel most confident?
  15. What are some things you like about yourself physically?
  16. How would you describe your self-image?
  17. Do you often compare yourself to others? How does it make you feel?
  18. Can you name a time when you stood up for yourself? How did you feel after doing so?
  19. What do you think contributes to your self-esteem?
  20. How do you react when you make a mistake? Please tell me about the thoughts that come up for you.
  21. How do you define success for yourself?
  22. What achievements are you most proud of in your life?
  23. How do you set and pursue personal goals?
  24. Can you think of any boundaries in your life that could be established or improved?
  25. Do you feel comfortable asserting your needs and boundaries in relationships?
  26. What activities or hobbies make you feel good about yourself?
  27. Can you recall a time when you felt confident in social situations?
  28. What do you believe others appreciate about you?
  29. Can you identify any negative influences on your self-esteem?
  30. What role does self-compassion play in your life?
  31. How do you handle rejection or disappointment?
  32. What fears or insecurities do you struggle with the most?
  33. How do you express self-love and acceptance?
  34. How do you handle moments of self-doubt or uncertainty?
  35. What beliefs about failure do you hold?
  36. Can you recall a time when you were able to advocate for yourself effectively?
  37. What messages about self-worth did you receive growing up?
  38. What do you believe makes you unique or special?
  39. How do you define self-respect? How do you demonstrate it in your actions?
  40. How do you handle feelings of inadequacy or not being “enough”?
  41. Can you identify any role models or sources of inspiration for building self-esteem?
  42. What characteristics do you see in others that make you believe they have positive self-esteem?
  43. What are your beliefs about your worthiness of love and belonging?
  44. Can you tell me about any recurrent themes or patterns of not feeling as though you are “enough”? This could include particular relationships, work, or other behaviors you have tried to do.
  45. What are your thoughts about your achievements compared to others?
  46. Can you recall a time when you challenged a negative belief about yourself? What was the outcome?
  47. What do you believe are the greatest obstacles to your self-esteem?
  48. How do you handle situations where you feel vulnerable or exposed?
  49. Can you identify any patterns of self-sabotage in your life?
  50. What steps can you take to celebrate your successes more often?
  51. How do you handle feelings of jealousy or inadequacy in comparison to others?
  52. What strategies do you use to cope with feelings of failure or disappointment?
  53. How do you define happiness and fulfillment for yourself?
  54. How do you differentiate between healthy striving for improvement and perfectionism?
  55. How do you feel about asking for help or support from others?

Final Thoughts on Self-Esteem Questions in Counseling to Ask Clients

Thank you for reading our resource on 55 self-esteem questions in therapy to ask your clients. Working with clients who struggle with their self-esteem can be both challenging and rewarding. Together, you can explore the complexity of their thoughts and beliefs, and work to challenge them with moments of growth and self-discovery. Working to improve self-esteem is a journey made up of small steps, not a set destination.

If you have found yourself intrigued about how to incorporate self-esteem-building exercises into your clinical work, we encourage you to explore continuing education and training opportunities within the scope of your clinical practice.

TherapyPatron.com helps mental health professionals better serve their clients. Our (editable, fillable, printable PDF) therapy worksheets can help you streamline your practice, effectively deliver different types of therapy, and help your clients be their best selves.

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Resources:

  • Liu, Qiaolan et al. “Social support, resilience, and self-esteem protect against common mental health problems in early adolescence: A nonrecursive analysis from a two-year longitudinal study.” Medicine vol. 100,4 (2021): e24334. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000024334
  • Henriksen, Ingvild Oxås et al. “The role of self-esteem in the development of psychiatric problems: a three-year prospective study in a clinical sample of adolescents.” Child and adolescent psychiatry and mental health vol. 11 68. 29 Dec. 2017, doi:10.1186/s13034-017-0207-y
Kayla VanGuilder, MA, LCMHC
Author: Kayla VanGuilder, MA, LCMHC

Kayla is a Mental Health Counselor who earned her degree from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York. She has provided psychotherapy in a residential treatment program and an outpatient addiction treatment facility in New York as well as an inpatient addiction rehab in Ontario, Canada. She has experience working with individuals living with a variety of mental health concerns including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and trauma.

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