When people think of therapy, they may tend to envision the Freudian based image of a client on a couch and a therapist on a chair talking about the inner workings of the mind. However, this is far from most of the therapy practices that are offered today, especially here at The Center for Growth. Our therapy, while still discussing the workings of a client's mind, is done collaboratively and face to face allowing clients to lead a discussion about how to reach goals, maintain mental wellbeing or process larger emotions. Another thing that may be unexpected when starting therapy is getting assigned “homework”. The use of homework for some clients after some sessions can be helpful in order to continue the processing that was happening during the session at home, developing additional insight about topics discussed, or seeing how certain skills resonate in day to day life outside of therapy. Not only does this help keep motivation and engagement during sessions, but it also helps clients feel confident in using skills outside of sessions and empower clients.
Homework is an activity for you, a client, to do in-between sessions that relates to the material discussed during the session. The idea of homework may be a bit intimidating to some because of the connotation it carries from school days, but therapy homework is a bit different! Some homework can be simple, like noticing certain feelings or thoughts and logging or writing about them, while other homework may be a bit more intense, like making changes to some behaviors. But fear not! The more intense homework is only given when you and your clinician have decided you are ready. Having some more information about homework may help ease any anxiety that exists by knowing what kind of work is expected while in therapy, so let's take a look at homework from a different perspective!
A Client’s Perspective on Homework
What is the purpose of homework?
As mentioned above, the big goal for homework is to allow clients to take session material back home and continue to work on developing insight related to that material. Sometimes the purpose of homework is to strengthen the use of a skill discussed, or to try something new and see how it impacts life.
Is it hard?
Sometimes homework can be challenging in the sense that it really makes you think about the internal workings of yourself. Other times it may be challenging because it pushes you out of your comfort zone. However, often the more challenging homework has a larger impact and provides more insight. But, this kind of homework is only given when you feel ready and is something you work up to by starting with the less intense homework, like noticing when you have certain thoughts or feelings and just recording them to talk about later or responding to a journal prompt.
How long does it take?
Timing really depends on the task assigned, but really homework can take as long as you want it to based on the effort you give. If there is an assignment that really resonates with you, maybe you’ll spend more time than on an assignment such as working a skill into your routine.
What if I don’t want to do homework?
Let your therapist know about your reservations! It is a clinician’s job to both meet you where you are at and push towards growth, so being open about your abilities can help your therapist create homework activities that are both appropriate and meaningful for you.
How frequently do I have to do homework?
This is something that is determined by your therapist as you move through sessions. There is not always a need for homework, so if your therapist has an activity in mind that is related to the session material, they’ll discuss the activity with you!
Oh no! I forgot to do my homework! What now?
That's okay! There is no “punishment” for not completing or forgetting about homework. This gives the opportunity to talk about what stopped you from doing the activity or to work through the activity together in session in order to achieve the goals of the homework.
Examples of Homework
Below are some examples of different types of homework activities that you may encounter in therapy.
Notice when feelings or thoughts of self-doubt come up for you and just jot down what was happening in that moment and what the thoughts sounded like or what the feeling felt like so we can look at them next session!
At the end of each night, write about three good things that happened during the day. They can be small (like the perfect cup of coffee), big (like a promotion at work) or anywhere in between! Once you have three good things, reflect on each one with one of the following questions “why did this good thing happen”, “what made this good thing meaningful” or “how can I experience more of this good thing”.
Next time you feel overwhelmed like that, would you be willing to try to use one of the grounding skills we just discussed? After you use it, jot down what it was like for you.
Before we meet again, I think it would be helpful for you to read this article I found about cognitive distortions, those automatic thoughts we were talking about. I’ll send it to you and next session we can talk about it!
So, that’s the short and sweet on homework in therapy! It is not anything to worry about--just keep an open mind and communicate with your therapist and you will find a groove that works for you. If you think activities such as the ones above would benefit you and your life or you would like more personalized information, book an appointment with one of our skilled therapists on our website or call (215) 922- LOVE (5683) x 100.