How can counselling help with my low self-esteem?

Self-esteem is essentially how we value ourselves. A lack of self-esteem has a major impact on our lives, as it not only affects how we view ourselves but also how we develop relationships with and interact with others. Studies have also shown a link between a lack of self-esteem and depression (Yoobin et al, 2019).


Low self-esteem can come from negative beliefs; these may be beliefs we have picked up in childhood, in particular within our family unit, or may be rooted in negative life experiences such as emotional abuse and bullying. A lack of self-esteem may also be caused by a particular person, such as a partner, friend or family member.

Quite often problem pages found in magazines and websites frequently recommend people suffering from low self-esteem to seek counselling... But how does counselling help? Below I take a look at the ways in which counselling and psychotherapy may help you build your self-esteem.

It gives you the opportunity to articulate your needs

When it comes to therapy, your needs are paramount. If you have low self-esteem it is very likely that you often side-line your own needs and wants in favour of others. Counselling and psychotherapy shine the light on you and provide a safe space for you to articulate your needs and desires. This is your time and no one else’s.

You can gain assertiveness and learn boundaries 

Those with low self-esteem often struggle to say no to others and have difficulty asserting themselves in day to day situations. This makes sense, as, why would you stand up for yourself and run the risk of disappointing someone when deep down you do not recognise your worth? Your counsellor can support you in learning how to comfortably set boundaries and be more assertive while working with you to recognise all you are worth.

It is the chance to tell your story 

I did not know the true power of this until I found a good counsellor who I worked with while I was training to be a counsellor. As someone who always struggled with low self-esteem, I benefited immensely from having someone actively listen to my experiences; this enabled me to feel validated and finally recognised. Telling your story in the therapy room can also help you process and make sense of your life experiences and as well as painful events.

You can discover buried feelings 

During therapy, it is common to uncover feelings that you have pushed down as a form of coping mechanism. It is possible that these feelings are contributing to your low self-esteem. For example, you may have painful memories of bullying or other forms of emotional abuse that planted feelings of inferiority. By identifying and bringing these feelings to the surface, you can gain a greater understanding of yourself and the impact painful experiences have had on your life. A counsellor can then work through these feelings with you and eventually release you from these chains that have been holding you down.

Unhelpful thinking patterns will be challenged

Quite often, those with low self-esteem are holding on to negative thoughts about themselves. A counsellor will often use CBT to challenge the negative thought patterns that you have been holding on to, and also challenge the way you speak to yourself. For example, you may have unhelpful black and white thinking patterns such as “I am a failure because I lost my job”. Therapy can provide a space where you question these thoughts and be introduced to kinder ways to view and speak to yourself.

You can build self-compassion 

It is common for people with low self-esteem to have little compassion for how they see and treat themselves. A counsellor can support you to build self-compassion. They may do this in many ways (and this usually depends on what modality of therapy your counsellor has trained in), but it is possible they will start by exploring the reasons behind your tendency to judge yourself so harshly and then work on providing you with the tools you need to be kinder to yourself.

While counselling (or indeed any type of therapy) is not a guaranteed fix, in my professional and personal experience it can be an incredibly helpful place to start. I hope this article was of some help and may have given you some food for thought as to how counselling may help you on your journey towards building a stronger, healthier self-esteem.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, Barnet, N12
Written by Victoria Jeffries, MBACP (Accred) MSc
London, Barnet, N12

Victoria Jeffries is a BACP registered Psychotherapeutic Counsellor with a Master of Science in Therapeutic Counselling. Victoria has a special interest in working with low self-esteem, bereavement and emotional abuse.

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