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Putting Therapy into Practice

Putting Therapy into Practice

Homework is a vital part of counselling as it is used to engage the use of skills and tools discussed and ‘tried on’ in therapy where it truly matters—life outside of the counselling office.

Sara Alia, MC, R.(Prov) Psych

Practice makes perfect—a popular saying we hear and often use in our North American culture, also a helpful one that I find informs a critical piece of counselling.

Think of a boxer who prepares for a match —he/she spend hours putting into practice the specific moves and skills his/her coach have assisted to cultivate, introduce and/or expand. Boxers practice what they’ve learned and rediscovered for the sole reason to prepare for the real deal—the match inside the ring. I utilize different versions of this example to help introduce the concept of homework inside the therapeutic context. Although something along the lines of “you-work” is more fitting, homework is a vital part of counselling as it is used to engage the use of skills and tools discussed and ‘tried on’ in therapy where it truly matters—life outside of the counselling office.

Although the aim is never perfection, the idea is that achievement becomes possible in taking small steps towards the sought-after goal.

What would these small steps look like for you? The small steps vary in multiple facets and working closely with a therapist to determine what your steps look like is an important part of the homework discussion. Homework is not pre-determined or a one size-fits all part of therapy, rather it is meant to be crafted to fit each person’s specific needs. For instance-

Someone who struggles with setting boundaries may be given the homework to practice saying no to a loved one’s request in between sessions. For another person sharing the same struggle, what could be more fitting is homework to set a boundary for him/herself by engaging in thoughts about a distressing subject for a few minutes set by an alarm. A couple who have difficulty in discussing conflict without escalation may find it helpful to practice recognizing signals of tempers-rising and calling a ‘time out’ as a period to engage in cool off methods that work for each person. A family who are struggling to see eye-to-eye about a common concern may be given the homework to practice specific tools around perspective taking.

The type of homework explored and chosen as fit for you can vary from processing via writing in a journal, completing worksheets, going through a mental checklist of questions to more experiential forms such as those listed above.

The use of homework is proven to increase the effectiveness of counselling work. Connect with us today to find the right therapist for you who can guide you into putting into practice the best steps for you!


I am so glad you are dedicated to getting the most out of your sessions. Your active participation and dedication is crucial to your success. After all, we only see each other for a session a week. It’s the work you do outside of our sessions that will really help you see your personal growth and development.

This is one of the most common counselling questions we get asked and certainly makes sense because the nature of therapy is so dynamic.  Because each person has different issues and goals for therapy, therapy will be different depending on the individual. we tailor our therapeutic approach to your specific needs.

Not at all. Everyone needs help sometimes. You may have had some skills or strengths that you’ve used to deal with challenges before, but for whatever reason, those aren’t working right now. Perhaps what you are dealing with right now feels overwhelming and you are unable to access your past strengths. Through your relationship with your counsellor and the process of therapy, you can explore the challenges you are facing and find your inner strength or develop new skills and strategies to find healing.


The difference is between someone who can do something and someone who has the training and experience to do that same thing professionally. A mental health professional can help you approach your situation in a new way– teach you new skills, gain different perspectives, listen to you without judgment or expectations, and help you listen to yourself. Furthermore, therapy is completely confidential. You won’t have to worry about others “knowing my business.” Lastly, if your situation provokes a great deal of negative emotion, if you’ve been confiding in a friend or family member, there is the risk that once you are feeling better you could start avoiding that person so you aren’t reminded of this difficult time in your life.

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