Putting Therapy Into Practice
A look at homework use in therapy
Sara Alia, MC – Registered Provisional Psychologist, Refresh Counselling
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!