In the course of therapy, you may find that your therapist assigns you weekly or regular “homework” assignments. Many clients are at first resistant to homework, feeling like they already have full schedules and can’t fit in another task. Some of us may even have negative associations with the term “homework.” It’s worth both therapists and clients, then, asking:
- Does “homework” really matter?
- Why should I bother with completing tasks assigned by my therapist?
- What kind of outcome can be expected?
Does Homework Matter in Therapy?
The short answer is, yes, homework matters. It can have a positive effect on treatment outcomes. A recent report published in “Psychology Today” suggests that for a number of reasons, homework can have a positive effect for those undergoing therapy. Clients who are assigned and complete tasks relevant to their work in therapy show increased benefits as compared to those who do not.
Why Does Homework Support Our Work in Therapy?
Consistently, it’s been demonstrated that clients in therapy can benefit from therapy, but we may wonder why. On the one hand, it seems unrealistic to expect that in one hour a week we can make significant progress quickly, which is the case if clients work with therapists in talk therapy just once a week. Homework assignments, however, give clients the opportunity to practice regularly the skills they are learning with the support of their therapists.
Additionally, it’s believed that many clients suffer due to deeply embedded thought patterns. Simply talking once a week may not be enough to challenge and change these negative thought patterns. Homework provides clients with the opportunity, then, to challenge and reframe negative thoughts on a regular basis or as these thoughts come up. Negative thought patterns are powerful in part because they have been reinforced by many years’ habit; changing this may require consistent practice, which homework affords.
Evidence suggests that homework can be a helpful component of therapeutic work. What matters is that the homework assigned be agreed upon by both therapist and client, that it be tailored to the client’s specific needs, that it be clearly working towards a specified goal and that its methods be rehearsed in session.
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