Does Therapy Homework Really Help?
Therapy homework differs for each therapist and each client, and many therapists don't do therapy homework at all, which begs the question: does it actually help? I've had several different therapists over the years, and only one or two of them have ever given me therapy homework. Some of my friends in therapy have lots of homework, and I always wondered if my therapists were doing something wrong by not giving me things to do outside of sessions. Now that I've had one or two therapists who do give homework, I think I understand some of the benefits and problems with therapy homework.
3 Benefits of Therapy Homework
- Therapy homework helps you continue to make progress in between sessions. Due to time or money restrictions, many people can only get to therapy once every two weeks, or sometimes even less often. In the gap between visits, homework can help you continue to make progress. This is great because it can be very anxiety-inducing to feel your life falling apart between sessions and to feel like you're just trying to hang on until next week when you finally have therapy. It's better to have tools you can use in between.
- It helps you practice healthy coping mechanisms in real life, not just in a therapist's office. Therapists often help us practice healthy coping mechanisms in their offices, but transferring those skills to the real world is definitely difficult. By doing therapy homework outside of the office, you are training your brain to feel more comfortable with these new coping skills in a real-world setting.
- It helps you feel more in control of your own wellbeing. When I don't have therapy homework, I often feel like I'm just waiting for my next session so my therapist can "fix" me. This feeling takes away my agency over the situation, making me feel like a bystander to my own mental health. Therapy homework can help with that because I feel like I'm taking a more active role in my life.
3 Problems with Therapy Homework
- It may trigger memories/emotions you aren't equipped to deal with when you're alone. If you're in therapy to deal with trauma or long-standing unhealthy patterns, you may be unprepared to confront these things alone. There's a fine line between challenging yourself and triggering yourself. Therapy homework can trigger memories or emotions that are far too powerful for us to handle by ourselves, and it could cause more harm than good.
- The homework assigned may not be well-suited to your personality. For therapy homework to be effective, it really needs to match the client's personality. If your therapist gives you homework that you just can't connect with, it's unlikely to do any good.
- It could disrupt functioning in a non-helpful way. If your mental health struggles impair your ability to function, therapy homework could actually make that worse if not handled in the right way. In many ways, it can be helpful to continue to work on your mental health outside of therapy, but if that work overwhelms you and impairs your functioning even further, it may not be a good fit for your treatment right now.
Is Therapy Homework Right for You?
Given all the advantages and disadvantages associated with therapy homework, how do you know if it's a good idea for you, personally? Everyone is different, and everyone is in a different place in his or her own journey toward wellbeing, and therapy homework may or may not be a useful tool in that journey.
I encourage you to discuss the possibility of homework with your therapist, and if you notice some of the problems above popping up, don't just suffer through them -- say something. If your homework doesn't jive with your personality, tell your therapist. If your therapist is good at his or her job, your therapist will come up with homework that works better for you.
How do you feel about therapy homework? Has it worked for you in the past?
Griffith, M. (2020, March 31). Does Therapy Homework Really Help?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, May 27 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2020/3/does-therapy-homework-really-help