The Practical Guide on How to Improve Self-Esteem in Therapy and At Home
Learn how to improve your self- esteem in therapy and at home with this practical guide full of resources and tips.
Last Updated on August 22, 2021 by Ellyssa

If you want to improve your self-esteem, there are several ways to do it. One way is to seek out professional help.

Therapy can help you overcome your self-esteem issues. Therapy can also help you learn new skills and techniques that can improve your self-esteem.

Self-esteem is an important part of life. It affects every aspect of your daily life, including your relationships, career, health, and even your perspective of yourself. So learning how to improve self-esteem in therapy and at home are critical for making changes to your daily lifestyle.

If you’re looking for ways to use therapy as a way to improve your self-confidence, here are some suggestions.

how-to-improve-self-esteem-in-therapy

How Do Therapists Improve Self-Esteem?

There’s no one right answer when it comes to how to improve self-esteem. However, many people find that talking with their therapist about the issue helps them feel better.

Talking with someone who has experience dealing with similar problems can be helpful. You may not have any specific goals or strategies in mind at first, but by working together, you’ll develop ideas on what might work best for you.

You don’t need to go through this process alone.

So how do therapists actually help?

Many therapists offer individual psychotherapy sessions. Individual psychotherapy focuses on resolving problems by working through past experiences.

Therapists improve self-esteem by helping you understand that you are not alone in their feelings, and that there are people who care about you.

They do this by giving insight into your situation, your feelings, and your reactions to certain situations. Then, they help build you up by helping you reflect and develop skills that build back your self-esteem.

They may encourage the client to express his or her thoughts and emotions openly with others. They might teach coping strategies such as relaxation exercises, breathing exercises, meditation, journaling, and other methods. 

A common exercise that therapists use to help build self-esteem is called “self-esteem sentence completion”. This is when you complete sentences that are designed to focus on positive traits and positive experiences. Questions that could be asked include:

  • I am good at playing…
  • I like to help with…
  • My biggest talent is…
  • I feel proud when…
  • My favorite skill is…
  • People like when I…

In addition, the therapist may suggest activities that promote socialization and interaction among friends and relatives so that you focus on building strong relationships.

These activities include going to movies together, playing games like bowling or cards, attending parties, having dinner at restaurants, simply having casual conversations, etc.

Finally, if necessary, the therapist may recommend medication or medical treatments to treat more complex mental health issues like depression or anxiety disorders that might be influencing your self-esteem.

Note that medication can be helpful when these conditions interfere with daily functioning. However, medications should never replace good counseling.

how-to-improve-self-esteem-in-therapy

What Should I Expect While Undergoing Therapy?

During therapy sessions, you might talk about specific problems you face. You might discuss your thoughts, emotions, behaviors, beliefs, values, goals, dreams, fears, memories, fantasies, and so forth.

Your therapist will ask you questions about your history, family background, current situation, and future plans. This is so that they can better understand you, your self-esteem, and your goals with therapy.

Your therapist will then provide feedback regarding what he or she has learned about you. He or she will offer advice based on his or her experience.

And finally, your therapist will make recommendations regarding changes you need to implement in order to achieve your desired outcomes to develop a healthy self-esteem.

Is Therapy Effective to Improve Your Self-Esteem?

Yes, therapy works very effectively. In fact, research shows that therapy helps many patients resolve their difficulties. For example, studies indicate that cognitive behavioral therapy is highly successful in treating depression.

CBT teaches patients coping strategies such as problem solving, goal setting, assertiveness training, relaxation exercises, and other methods designed to reduce negative thinking patterns.

Research indicates that CBT is particularly helpful for anxiety disorders. Studies suggest that exposure therapies are especially useful for phobias. Exposure therapy involves gradually confronting feared situations until the patient becomes comfortable enough to engage in activities without fear.

Other types of psychotherapy include interpersonal therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, schema therapy, mindfulness meditation, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing.

These treatments work by teaching patients alternative ways of dealing with difficult situations.

how-to-improve-self-esteem-in-therapy

Are There Side Effects Associated With Therapy?

No, therapy shouldn’t cause physical harm or other similar side effects.

However, if you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness, you must be aware that certain medications used to treat certain conditions could interact negatively with your treatment plan.

If you take medication, let your doctor know before beginning therapy.

How Long Does Therapy Last?

The length of time you spend with a therapist depends on the type of treatment you receive. Some types of treatments may take longer than others. For example, if you need medication or counseling to treat depression, then this will require more sessions than just talking about how you feel.

Some people find they benefit from short term therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy which focuses on changing negative thoughts into positive ones by teaching you different coping strategies.

Typically, one therapy session lasts 45 minutes to 1 hour.

In terms of frequency, some therapists recommend weekly appointments.  Your therapist will determine whether additional sessions are needed.

Can Therapy Change My Personality?

Not necessarily. While therapy can teach you new skills and techniques, it won’t alter your basic character traits.

Therapy can give you insight into why you behave the way you do. By understanding your own motives, you’ll gain greater control over your actions.

In addition, learning new skills and acquiring knowledge can enhance your sense of well being. And, because you’ll become more knowledgeable about yourself, you’ll find it easier to relate to others.

So, no. While therapy can change your approach to certain situations, it should not change your fundamental personality traits. 

how-to-improve-self-esteem-in-therapy

Does Therapy Cost Money?

Yes! But whether or not  you have to pay the full therapy amount depends on your insurance plan.

In the US, most insurance companies cover counseling services after you pay a deductible.

Check with your insurance provider to see which benefits apply to you. This can usually be done by calling the number on the back of your insurance card.

You can ask the representative to look up your insurance card number and give you a list of what your plan covers. They should usually send this to you in a PDF.

How Can I Rebuild My Self-Esteem?

If you’re struggling with low self esteem and figuring out how to improve self-esteem in therapy, there are several ways to find support and help yourself.

1. Seek Professional Therapists for Psychotherapy

You may want to consider seeing a counselor who specializes in treating low self-esteem and negative beliefs.

You could talk to someone close to you, such as a parent, sibling, friend, teacher, clergy member, or doctor. If no one seems willing to listen, try talking to a stranger.

A trusted adult may have insight into how you’ve been feeling. He or she may know what’s causing your problem and how to solve it. A person who has experienced similar situations may be able to give advice based on personal experience.

Another option is to see a psychologist or psychiatrist. Psychologists specialize in mental health while psychiatrists focus on medical illnesses. Both types of professionals provide treatment using different approaches.

Additionally, if you’d prefer not to see someone in person, you might benefit from seeking professional counseling via Skype or other video chat services.

2. Become More Aware of Your Negative Self-Talk

You’ll need to stop thinking negatively about yourself. Instead, think positively about yourself.

Negative thoughts like “I’m not good enough” or “Nobody likes me” will only make things worse. Positive affirmations such as “I am smart,” “My friends love me,” and “People respect my opinions” will give you the confidence you need to succeed at school, work, and social events.

how-to-improve-self-esteem-in-therapy

3. Learn How to Handle Criticism

Criticism hurts. You may feel hurt when someone criticizes something you’ve done or said. This type of feedback isn’t always constructive. If this happens often, try to find positive aspects of what’s being criticized instead of focusing on the negatives.

For example, if someone says they don’t understand why you didn’t get into their college because you weren’t applying early enough, focus on all the reasons you did apply early: The application fee was waived; you had time to study hard; you were able to take advantage of scholarships; etc.

Try your best to focus on these positives rather than dwelling on the fact that you missed out on getting accepted by one particular university.

This could be easier to work through with a professional therapist. So if you want to work on handling criticism on your own, we recommend using a self-help workbook.

Awen Finn made a quick and easy guide on how to do this called “How to Beat Criticism and Feel Good”. This guide should give you a lot more clarity on positive criticism and how to handle hurtful and unnecessary criticism. Get it here!

4. Eliminate Unrealistic Expectations

It’s easy to set high standards for ourselves. We expect our parents to be perfect role models, we expect teachers to teach us well, and we expect people who know us best to treat us with kindness. But setting too many goals makes it difficult to achieve them.

Instead, set realistic goals based on your current lifestyle.

For instance, if you have trouble making friends, start small. Make sure you spend quality time with each friend so he or she feels comfortable around you.

Then slowly increase the amount of time you spend together until you reach the point where you enjoy spending time with them and can possibly rely on them more.

5. Be Yourself and Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

Comparison is the thief of joy. When you look at other people, you tend to see flaws in yourself. In addition, comparing yourself to others leads to feelings of inadequacy.

When you compare yourself to others, you end up feeling bad about yourself. So, avoid comparisons altogether. Try your best not to worry about whether you measure up to your peers. Instead, concentrate on doing your very best and enjoying yourself while you’re learning.

A solid resource I found that could help me avoid comparing myself to others is “Master Your Emotions” by Thibaut Meurisse.

It comes with a workbook and 31 coping strategies that train your brain to help you regulate your emotions towards things like comparisons and other things that could lower your self-esteem. Get it here!

how-to-improve-self-esteem-in-therapy

6. It’s Okay to Be Rejected

Rejection doesn’t mean failure. Rejections happen to everyone! And honestly, they simply highlight how much more you can achieve.

So, yes – rejection is definitely worth crying and getting frustrated over.

But try your best to not dwell on rejections. Learn from them and move forward.

Remember that no matter what anyone else thinks, you’re still valuable.

An amazing book that I found to be helpful with a wide range of rejection is “Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts” by Dr. Guy Winch.

It’s a simple book that could help you become more resilient, build self-esteem, and let go of the hurts and hang-ups that are holding you back. Get it here!

7. Make Sure You Keep Your Body Healthy

Your body plays a big role in determining your level of healthy self-esteem. A poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, drinking alcohol excessively, and using drugs can lead to physical problems that negatively impact your overall mental health. These factors can cause you to lose confidence in yourself.

To maintain a healthy lifestyle, eat right, drink plenty of water, stay active, quit smoking, limit caffeine intake, and cut down on sugar consumption.

Also, talk to your doctor before starting any weight loss program. He/she/they can provide advice on which exercises would benefit you most.

8. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness helps you become aware of things going on inside your mind without judgment. Meditation helps you to clear away negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones.

Both practices will allow you to feel better about yourself.

You may find it helpful to read books like “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. This book teaches readers how to live in the present moment instead of worrying about past mistakes and future failures. You’ll discover that living in the now gives you peace of mind.

how-to-improve-self-esteem-in-therapy

9. Attend a Class on Assertiveness Skills

Assertive behavior means being able to speak up when something needs changing. If someone isn’t treating you fairly, say something!

Assertiveness training classes offer tips on how to deal effectively with situations involving conflict. The goal is to give participants tools they need to express themselves clearly and confidently.

We recommend The Assertiveness Workbook by Randy J. Paterson. It’s a therapist-recommended self-help book uses cognitive behavioral techniques to help you become more assertive. Get it here!

10. Learn to Forgive Yourself

Sometimes, our own actions hurt ourselves more than they hurt others. In order to truly heal emotionally, you must first acknowledge that you have made mistakes.

Forgiving yourself takes practice. 

But in the end, this practice allows you to let go of guilt and regret. By letting go of this negativity, you free yourself to think positively about yourself again. So, start practicing forgiveness today.

Remember: Everyone makes mistakes. Your worth does not depend upon other people’s approval. Instead, focus on improving yourself so that you can make a difference in the world.

11. Take Care of Your Emotional Well-Being

Emotional well-being includes all aspects of your personal happiness. For example, having friends who support you and love you unconditionally goes a long way toward improving your sense of self worth.

Yes, sleep is important BUT the things you do during the day are equally as important as sleep. The impact that a daily coffee or bubble/boba tea run can give you could be invaluable to your health.

Stuff like this helps you move away from your workspace, it gets your body moving, and you get to enjoy something you like. The positive impact on your emotional well-being could be immeasurably high if you keep this consistent.

So, take time each day to relax and enjoy activities that bring joy into your life. Spend quality time with family members and close friends. Take walks outside during nice weather. Walk in the mall when it’s rainy or snowy weather. Play games together.

Spending more time doing the things you like and building up your emotional well-being should greatly build up your self-esteem.

how-to-improve-self-esteem-in-therapy

12. Develop Your Skills by Taking Risks.

Depending on your situation and character, this may or may not work for you.

Risking failure could be one of the best ways to develop your skills. When you fail at something, don’t be afraid to admit it. Learn from your mistake and move forward. 

When you face challenges, try to ask questions. Ask what went wrong and why. Then, figure out what you could’ve done differently next time.

By asking these types of questions, you gain valuable information that can help you grow as a person.

When you’re constantly reflecting like this, you should end up training your brain to accept the negative and positive aspects of yourself and build up from where you are.

13. Create Gratitude Lists

Gratitude is another great tool for boosting your self-esteem.

Try to make a list of everything you appreciate about yourself. Include physical features such as your eyes or hair color. Also include qualities like kindness, intelligence, creativity, humor, etc.

Is a list about your physical appearance too difficult for you right now? No worries! Try this…

Think about the good times you had over the last few days. What did you experience? Did anything special happen? Write down those memories. They might inspire you to create a similar memory tomorrow.

Or, write down three things you appreciate about yourself and/or your surroundings from today.

Read through your list daily. Doing so will remind you of all the wonderful traits you possess so that you can become more confident about yourself and strengthen your self-esteem.

We recommend “Gratitude: A Day and Night Reflection Journal (90 Days)”. It’s a guided journal will help you cultivate gratitude through mindfulness. This is one of the most simple yet comprehensive  gratitude journals we’ve found.

One of my favorite parts of this journal is that it has morning AND evening pages for each day. It’s great for people not sure how to improve self-esteem in therapy and who are just starting out with gratitude lists! Get it here!

how-to-improve-self-esteem-in-therapy

How do you get over poor self-esteem?

Low self-esteem often stems from childhood trauma. Trauma causes emotional pain which results in feelings of inadequacy. The child feels unworthy of love and approval.

As adults, people who experienced traumatic events during childhood tend to feel insecure and inadequate. They struggle to trust others and develop meaningful relationships.

As a result, these individuals may have trouble forming healthy attachments with others and even themselves – hence the low self-esteem issues.

The good news is that most people have great potential to recover from their early traumas. So, when working through any past trauma, remember that healing takes place at different rates depending upon the severity of the event.

To Sum Up

Looking into how to improve self-esteem in therapy is a great start! As you try your best in therapy and at home, keep these things in mind…

– Self esteem is a very important part of life. It affects our physical health, how we feel about ourselves, our relationships, and what we do.

– People often have low self esteem because they don’t like themselves or where they are in life. They may feel ugly, stupid, unlucky, or feel like they aren’t doing enough.

– Self esteem is affected by many things, including your personality, your family, your friends, your education, and your environment.

– Therapy is a good way to help you overcome negative feelings about yourself. It can help you to understand how you feel, and what you need to do to change your life. Therapy can also help you to develop new skills, and to learn how to cope better with difficult situations.

– There are many other ways to increase self esteem, but you need to find the right way for you. To get started, try the list of 13 recommendations that we suggest above!

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How to Improve Self-Esteem in Therapy