Occupational therapists frequently address the self-esteem of young clients despite little empirical evidence that the clients have low self-esteem to begin with, and that occupational therapy intervention is effective in addressing self-esteem. This article examines the self-esteem of 39 adolescents with mental health problems referred to a pre-vocational programme in an effort to compare clinical practice with empirical findings. The Self-Perception Profile for Adolescents and the Importance Rating Scale for Adolescents are employed to compare the self-esteem of the adolescents with mental health problems with the normative sample, prior to (n=39) and upon completion of the pre-vocational programme (n=14). Results indicate no difference between the two groups' self-esteem and no change in self-esteem scores following participation in the pre-vocational programme. Global self-esteem is significantly correlated with physical appearance and behavioural conduct (n=39). Competence-importance discrepancy scores are significantly related to global self-esteem (n=14). This finding supports the theory that it is the domain of self-concept which is low and important to the adolescent which will influence his/her self-esteem. These results are consistent with previous studies. Possible explanations for the discrepancy between clinical perceptions and objective findings are discussed. Implications for practice are presented.