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55 Self-Esteem Questions in Therapy to Ask Your Clients

How an individual views themselves, including the value or worth they think they have, is grounded in their self-esteem. This subjective perspective of oneself can include feelings and beliefs about attractiveness, competence, and overall self-worth. Those who experience high self-esteem are often comfortable in their own skin and confident in their abilities. In contrast, those who may struggle with their self-esteem can experience self-doubt, insecurities, and feelings of inadequacy. Keep reading to learn 55 self-esteem questions in therapy to ask your clients.

Though self-esteem is fundamentally connected to a person’s mental health, the exact connection with various mental health concerns is still unclear. The development of self-esteem begins during childhood and is shaped by personal experiences. Adolescents often encounter situations and stressors that can impact their mental health, including their self-esteem. Having high self-esteem is a protective factor for the development of various mental health concerns and disorders. Our self-esteem is not a definitive, or set, belief, which means that it can ebb and flow as we grow and have different experiences in life. Research has indicated that protective factors for self-esteem in adolescents include resiliency and social support, including feeling understood or heard, and having access to social networks.

Self-esteem can have a significant impact on an individual’s behaviors, which can add to the distress they experience. As an example, someone who has low self-esteem may not see themselves as worthy or good enough for a raise or promotion, which can keep them from putting themselves in growth opportunities. Without these opportunities, there may be no change to their income or job role, which can reinforce the negative beliefs they carry about themselves. Behaviors and other aspects of a person’s life that can be affected by their self-esteem include:

  • Decision-making: Individuals with high self-esteem often make decisions that align with their goals and values, whereas others may have fear-based decisions
  • 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
  • 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
  • Achievement: Those who have high self-esteem may have higher goals, and put themselves in situations that have more opportunities for growth
  • 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
  • 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:

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

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

As noted above, self-esteem can be associated with various mental health concerns, which means that the referrals you receive, and self-assessments your client completes before meeting with you, may indicate other mental health experiences as their presenting concern. This is where the use of a comprehensive intake assessment that explores various areas of their thoughts, behaviors, and emotions comes in.

Before your session with a new client begins, it can be helpful to review any paperwork that you have received and use this information to create a rough outline of what you would like your assessment to include. As you progress in your session, you can make the necessary modifications to your plan that reflect the personal needs of your client.

For later sessions, it may be helpful to have an idea of self-esteem questions and related worksheets that you could incorporate into your session. TherapyByPro can be a valuable resource for clinicians who incorporate worksheets into their sessions, with access to a large array of customizable, fillable, and printable mental health worksheets. Examples of worksheets that could be incorporated into sessions with clients who have a low-self self-esteem and related concerns include:

Self-Esteem Questions in Therapy 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. Can you tell me about what brought you in today?
  2. How do you believe that counseling could help you?
  3. How would you describe your self-image?
  4. How as 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?
  5. What are some qualities you admire about yourself?
  6. How do you typically respond to compliments? What emotions come up for you when someone compliments you?
  7. Can you recall a time when you felt proud of yourself? What did you accomplish, and how long did you feel proud?
  8. What are your greatest strengths?
  9. What do you believe are your biggest areas for growth?
  10. How do you react when you make a mistake? Please tell me about the thoughts that come up for you.
  11. What are some things you like about yourself physically?
  12. In what areas of your life do you feel most confident?
  13. Can you name a time when you stood up for yourself? How did you feel after doing so?
  14. How do you handle criticism from others?
  15. Do you often compare yourself to others? How does it make you feel?
  16. What do you think contributes to your self-esteem?
  17. Can you tell me about some of the self-care practices you have? What do you do for fun and enjoyment?
  18. How do you prioritize self-care in your life?
  19. Can you identify any negative self-talk patterns you experience? What triggers them, and how often do they come up for you?
  20. How do you cope with failure or setbacks?
  21. What achievements are you most proud of in your life?
  22. How do you define success for yourself?
  23. What activities or hobbies make you feel good about yourself?
  24. Can you recall a time when you felt confident in social situations?
  25. What do you believe others appreciate about you?
  26. How do you set and pursue personal goals?
  27. What fears or insecurities do you struggle with the most?
  28. Do you feel comfortable asserting your needs and boundaries in relationships?
  29. Can you think of any boundaries in your life that could be established or improved?
  30. How do you handle rejection or disappointment?
  31. Can you identify any negative influences on your self-esteem?
  32. What role does self-compassion play in your life?
  33. What are your beliefs about failure?
  34. How do you express self-love and acceptance?
  35. How do you handle moments of self-doubt or uncertainty?
  36. What messages about self-worth did you receive growing up?
  37. What do you believe makes you unique or special?
  38. Can you recall a time when you were able to advocate for yourself effectively?
  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 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.
  42. Can you identify any role models or sources of inspiration for building self-esteem?
  43. What characteristics do you see in others that make you believe they have positive self-esteem?
  44. What are your beliefs about your worthiness of love and belonging?
  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 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.

TherapyByPro is an online mental health directory that connects mental health pros with clients in need. If you’re a mental health professional, you can Join our community and add your practice listing here. We have assessments, practice forms, and worksheet templates mental health professionals can use to streamline their practice. View all of our mental health forms, worksheet, and assessments here.


  • 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
  • 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
Kayla Loibl, MA, LMHC
Author: Kayla Loibl, MA, LMHC

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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