The significance of what you wear to therapy.

There’s something on my mind for quite a while and as I’ve pondered the meaning of it all, I’ve decided to write about it. I figure that if this is something I’ve gone through then other people will have too. And then another blogger brought up this very subject (thanks Lily.) and it made me think even more about it.

I am thinking about clothes and their significance in therapy. And more specifically what does what I wear to therapy mean to me?

When I started going to my first therapist, I had this routine before a session. I would get ready for a session like I did for a first date! LOL My hair had to be perfect, freshly washed, straightened, make-up flawless, and fresh clean clothes. And not only that, and this is the weird thing….

I had to have a new top on. I would literally go buy a new top or jeans every week just for therapy. If I couldn’t afford a new top, then I would make sure I wore something that I hadn’t worn for a few weeks. There was thing, this feeling of unworthiness, I didn’t feel worthy of the feelings I was experiencing, I didn’t feel worthy of the therapist’s care and attention so perhaps that was my attempt to feel more “clean” more likeable or more acceptable.

That particular therapist looked like a classy lady, she clearly had money, drove an expensive car, lived in an exclusive area, and she dressed in lovely business-casual wear, she was slim and tall, lovely hair, she just exuded a sense of worth. I don’t know, I find it hard to explain. I also had a healthy dose of maternal transference (no change there, then 😃) and I wanted to feel worthy of her, like I could match up to her own children, somehow. Which always seemed like an impossible task since they were private school brats, now adults, all living very nice lives in very nice successful careers and I came from a working-class background, was struggling with even the basics of life and hadn’t achieved much.

I felt ashamed of who I was. So buying a new outfit for each session I think, was my way of trying to be worth something. To look more than I felt I was inside.

With the art therapist that I went to see for just over a year, I was still self-conscious, I still tried to wear different clothes every week, I dressed casually and comfortably but made sure I was wearing something different though I’d stopped buying something new every week! I was still conscious of my appearance and I still made sure hair and make-up was good.

With my current therapist, things have changed quite a lot.

I have noted that I pretty much wear the exact same thing every week. Like a uniform.

Black yoga pants, slouchy black t-shirt and various different cardigans that I can wrap around me like a comfort blanket.

I always make sure I’m super clean, hair and clothes. But yeah, it’s always the same black yoga pants and slouchy t-shirt.

Why do I wear the same thing? Why Yoga pants and a t-shirt specifically? Why don’t I make as much effort anymore?

Well my answers are this ;

I wear yoga pants and black slouchy t-shirt because they are really comfy and the closest to pyjamas as I can get, without actually wearing pyjamas… which I’ll never ever do cos… standards. (pet hate is pj’s in public.) Often I feel so physically unwell or psychologically fragile that I want to be in my pajamas, I need comfort, soft clothing swathed around me. And it’s easy to pull on yoga pants and a t-shirt, no effort required.

And (here comes the psychology bit)…. There’s something about jeans and top or other clothes that just make me feel uncomfortable whilst sitting in therapy. The waistbands, the neckline of tops, the lack of “give” in those materials make me very aware of my body boundaries, and somehow, I think that keeps me inhibited; I will be less likely to sit the way I want to and therefore keeps me in a more adult place when really it’s the younger parts who need the time in therapy.

During a session I don’t want to be conscious of my body boundaries. I mean I always am to an extent. But I’m not comfortable in my body and I don’t want to be reminded of it. But also, in order to be able to bypass The Editor part (the one that basically screens everything I think before I say it or act it out) I need to be able to sort of shrink back from the adult shell, to not be so cognizant of it before the child parts can come forward. The Editor is extremely hard to get by.

When I think about it, I do feel a bit “body-less” in session when the child parts come through. I think that needs to happen though because if I’m reminded of my adult body then the child parts feel very awkward and reticent about showing up and I am more in touch with the reality that I am a grown woman and therefore The Editor will adjust my behaviour to match my age.

There’s something about day clothes (jeans, shirts. Blouses, ) that keep me guarded. They do say clothes are often a defence, don’t they? So perhaps another part of this is trusting Sienna enough to shed the defences. Perhaps I trust her not to judge me harshly?

I still have this wish to dress better. Part of me is self-conscious about how I look. I do feel frumpy and lacking individuality. Lately I’ve really been aware of wishing I would make more effort for my session. Sienna must think it’s the only thing I own. She’d be partly correct.

I do have other clothes, but if I’m in my house I stick to pj’s, if I got out I wear jeans and a top but I am running low of clothes and despite looking constantly online or going into stores, for some reason I am not buying stuff. Something stops me. I’m actually not seeing a great deal of things I like enough to buy. And the things I do like are expensive. Or I feel too overweight or old too wear. So I get stuck in this place of overwhelm and eventually give up.

Skinny jeans have to die now. Why are skinny jeans everywhere???? If you have short dumpy (ahem, curvy) legs… they don’t look great. Although I see girls bigger than me and they still look great in them… but me, no, I look like a stuffed sausage.

I am trying to change it up, I have been wearing a few different pieces to therapy. Not because I want to but because I don’t want Sienna to think that yoga pants are the only thing I own!!

Again it’s this worth thing. Wanting to look nice, wanting to express my personality and worth through clothes.

A big part of me doesn’t care so much. Comfort over fashion!

When I’m feeling unwell physically or mentally, I literally couldn’t care less. The yoga pants are on, and the hair is tied back in a messy bun.

I swear, you’ll have to bury me in those yoga pants, they aren’t going anywhere! Ha!








21 thoughts on “The significance of what you wear to therapy.

  1. S says:

    Aaah! I can relate a lot. I thought I was the only one!
    I currently do what you did with your first two therapists. I try to make sure I look classy, neat, and presentable. I also try to avoid repeating the same outfit for few weeks. Always make sure my hair is washed, I look decent and all that!
    Thank you for your post. It gave me an insight. x

  2. behindapaintedsmile30 says:

    I tend to try to wear a nice dress and tights. A new dress that she hasn’t seen before preferably! It’s a way to dress up what I am going to say. To try to look perfect because what I say will be far from it. Maybe look less ugly if I cry which I never do anyway. My T often wears a dress too so maybe I’m trying to be equal to her.
    Great post Sirena, it’s something I often think about when I’m trying to work out what to wear for therapy!

  3. Kate says:

    First, recognize the trouble in buying new clothes, lately the thought has crossed my mind that it has something to do with parts. My taste in things seems to shift drastically sometimes and I’m buying things and a week later it doesn’t seem quite right or ‘me’. Frustrating!
    Second, for me, if I’m feeling unstable or messy and switchy on the inside I tend to choose safe clothes (big sweaters, hiding everything) but sometimes I notice someone who is into clothes and then it will be a skirt etc. but recognize the part of the little parts feeling the barrier of clothing.
    In short, when it comes to clothes, I really have no idea who I am or what I like.
    Today your first time since Holliday? Did it go okay?

  4. LB says:

    What a vulnerable topic! Thanks for writing this piece, Sirena! (Truly.)

    My therapist is a male, and since I’ve always struggled with erotic transference, I use clothes to seduce. I always make sure I look really nice, smell really nice, etc. Like others have mentioned, it’s a way to combat internal feelings of corrosive shame. I’ve relaxed a bit lately as the therapeutic relationship has deepened, but I still wear super tight jeans, low-cut tops, etc.

    Crazy, huh? Haha!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Interesting thought. I find however that it becomes much less symbolic if you work! If you’re working, then what you wear to therapy is whatever you wear to work that day. So if you work in a particular field, whether the clothing expectation is professional, casual, dressy, pantsuit, suit and tie, scrubs, jeans and sneakers, skirt and sweater set, whatever your particular job requires – that’s what you end up wearing to therapy and you don’t really have an option to select something else. That said, on the rare day I have therapy when I’m off work (like once a year give or take) I wonder if my therapist is wondering why on earth I’m dressed so differently!

  6. CD says:

    Wow! I thought I was the only. In the beginning I worked really hard to make sure I looked presentable and never wore the same thing for a few weeks. I went in casual clothes after about 3 months and then again about 4 months later. I always made sure I wore makeup and fresh/clean hair. Now, back to no make up and could care less about my hair. When I am feeling particularly awful, I make sure my hair is clean and worn down so I can “hide” behind it. I started with a new T today. Nice clothes, clean hair and lots of laughter. Ugg. But she puts electrodes in my hair so, yeah, it should be very clean. Funny thing is I noticed right away she was wearing the same outfit as when I met with her last week! Haha.

  7. La Quemada says:

    I, too, used to go to therapy straight from work, and so I was dressed professionally (business casual, slacks or a skirt and maybe a sweater or blazer). Now I’m not working, and I am yet another one of those who lives in black yoga pants. Even with the yoga pants, however, there is a range that varies with how I am feeling. If I’m doing better, I might wear them tucked into cute boots, with a sweater and a scarf and maybe I’ll put on a little make-up. Bad days get a schlumpy sweatshirt thrown over the yoga pants with the hole in the knee.

    I’ve known E so long that my clothes no longer have anything to do with my interactions with her. However, if I were to go see someone new, they would matter. And when I interact with social services on behalf of my son with developmental disabilities, I always dress up and use my professional demeanor. It makes a huge difference in how seriously the system takes my son (who tends to wear dirty clothes and have long, unkempt greasy hair). They are just much more polite and responsive if I’m there looking like someone with the cultural, political, and financial means to sue them. Of course this is an over-generalization, and some people who work for the state are lovely and helpful, but there are definitely cases where showing up as my professional self gets him what he needs a lot faster.

    • Sirena says:

      Yes, clothes matter in term of looking professional when you need to. I dress to fit the occassion. But therapy.. that’s a whole other thing lol.

  8. manyofus1980 says:

    now that you wrote about it, i’m thinking more about it. I always wear casual clothes to therapy. I never dress up. so what does that say about me? probably that I am not trying hard enough, I don’t know. but casual is what I am comfy in. t shirt, and tracksuit bottoms. or leggings and a top. xx

  9. twinkletoes2017 says:

    I love this post. I often think about this too. I always wear casual clothes now, but I used to make much more of an effort with clothes, hair and make up. These days it is pretty much always jeans and trainers or ugg boots. In fact, I probably go there more casual than I would go anywhere else… I am dreading the summer though because I like to have my coat over my lap (or keep it on) to hide my legs which isn’t going to be possible in the summer and I always dread that…. agh. .. anyway, I do go to my Thursday sessions straight from work and so I am already wearing work clothes so that can’t really be avoided. I think leggings/yoga pants are ideal because the last thing we need to be thinking about is our tight waste bands etc!! sod it. xx

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