Homework in Counseling

Each person has a special way of learning. Some people learn best by hearing (listening to the words of others), some people learn best by seeing (reading books, watching movies, looking at diagrams), while still others learn best by doing (completing projects, participating in role plays, or acting out their feelings).

One session in your office is separated by 167 other hours filled with other activities. Homework assignments are essential to enabling people to extend their learning beyond the counseling sessions and permit seeing and doing in addition to hearing. The word “homework” usually sends a red flag so “task agreement” might be a better term for the client to gain addition information, develop and practice new skills, eliminate harmful behavior, or test what he has learned in counseling.

Some assignments can be: giving one compliment to your wife each day, read a chapter a day in the Bible, spend time with a specific relative, keeping a record of time-use, or making a list of one’s values and priorities. There are basically five types of homework task agreements:

  1. Testing: questionnaires, sentence completion forms, standardized tests, writing assignments, listing life goals; then brought in for discussion.
  2. Discussion and study guides: Sometime these appear in the appendixes of books, but entire volumes have been written to guide home or small group discussions.
  3. Behavior assignments: The person can be encouraged to change their actions in small and important ways between sessions: saying “thank you,” giving periodic compliments, not complaining about an annoying practice by your spouse, getting to work on time.
  4. Reading: Books and articles contain helpful information which can supplement the counseling sessions. There is the danger that the counselee might misinterpret the information or pull it out of context. It is almost impossible to screen all the resources available.
  5. Recordings: Music therapy (the use of music to help people with their problems) is at least as old as David and Saul.

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