Clothes and Interference – what are you communicating?

What effect do my choice of clothes have on my clients?

If I wear brown cords, black hush puppies, a checked shirt and a brown jacket – what am I saying? Indeed, what am I communicating consciously and unconsciously? And how does this relate to the transference creation?

I wonder if I would be recreating some idea of mine of how a therapist should dress? Maybe taken from some tv inspired idea of how an intellectual looks (and is this the need for rational power in the room because of insecurity?) Or maybe it is how my ideal father would have dressed – all cool, confident and comfortable in his second skin. I’m not sure, but either way I wonder what my client feels about it.
If instead I wore a black striped business suit with a purple matching tie and shirt from M & S would that make any difference to the quality of our sessions?
Would the client feel more free to rationalize, and would the corduroy make the client freer with their feelings? That is to say, if i ‘zip myself up’ in my clothes, will the client zip themselves up?
It is an interesting question and something to think about in relation to first sessions with new clients as generally these will ‘colour’ the rest
of the work.
It is important for me to feel at ease. But not so at ease that I go in to session wearing shorts and flip flops.
In fact I would steer clear of any clothing that reveals skin generally. And no trainers. Why no trainers you may ask? Wearing trainers to a session seems just too personal, too fashion orientated. Trainers are very branded, they are generally marketed around the brand. Therefore a pair of
trainers could actually become a third person in the room due to the brand.

Maybe that is the key with all clothing decisions – once your clothing choices as a therapist become a statement, a message, they start to interfere with the ‘blank slate’ (if you believe in that) and the client will start to build up a much more detailed picture of your brand likes and dislikes, your fashion tastes, your colour schemes. And these, like a mobile next to a radio, could begin to interfere with the

therapeutic relationship in the room. Or even worse – your client might say something like ‘Nice trainers. Are they new?’ and being a trainee you will most probably stutter such a beautifully crafted text book answer as ‘I am wondering what you think?’ or even ‘We are here to talk about you’ or even better, you just stay silent, speechless, like some shy toddler asked what he likes best about Christmas!
Jim, a friend finishing his studies at a different training organisation south of the river, is threatening to open his very own clothes store for therapists called ‘Melanie and Sigmund’s’. I am wondering how he will break up the offer – and here’s a suggestion:
This Floor – Look like your dad/friendly intellectual/Lacan 70s detective look
First Floor – All the blacks/harsh like a 1920s granny/Melanie Klein’s miserable sister look
Second Floor – Freedom colour/Spirit a Go Go & Pretty Trinkets/I Heart Carl Rogers look
Underground – Modern & sexy/I listen to the Artic Monkeys you know/The About to Get Struck Off look
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