Simply hearing the word “homework” can bring out negative feelings in a person. Since many individuals view homework as a coming-of-age element that ends when one finally graduates, those undergoing therapy may act hesitant to complete assignments and deem it an unnecessary burden. Research authors and experts in the field agree that utilizing homework in therapy is an effective tool for recovery.
Research support for homework
Academic evidence has supported how homework actually plays an active role in treatment outcomes. In the study, “Homework Assignments in Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy: A Meta-Analysis,” researcher Nikolaos Kazantzis, Ph.D., and his colleagues from Massey University in New Zealand and the University of Wollongong in Australia quantitatively examined the link between therapy and homework assignments. Their results showed that homework assignments foster improvement in therapy clients and that the level of homework compliance was a strong predictor of therapeutic outcomes.
In another study called “Does psychotherapy homework lead to improvements in depression in cognitive–behavioral therapy or does improvement lead to increased homework compliance?” conducted by David D. Burns, M.D., of Stanford University and Diane L. Spangler, Ph.D., of Brigham Young University, the researchers assessed the bidirectional relationship between completing psychotherapy homework and displaying changes in depressive symptoms. Its outcomes detailed that compliance did have a large, causal effect on clients, as those who completed the most homework improved significantly in comparison to clients who did little to no work. In contrast, a person’s level of depression or any other variables did not influence his or her rate of compliance.
Expert support for homework
A number of experts who practice therapy first-hand have also testified how vital homework is as part of recovery. For instance, Professor Arthur Freeman, Ed.D., ABPP, of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine identified specific uses of homework in the therapeutic process:
- Homework can help measure the client’s motivation for a successful therapy experience or for achieving a needed change. This evidence is important for a therapist in order to adapt to each person’s needs and optimize therapeutic results
- It also gives one an opportunity to practice concepts introduced and developed in the therapy session. In other words, homework allows clients to take abstract ideas and apply them in day-to-day life
- Homework establishes continuity between individual sessions. Assignments at home can chain topics from previous sessions and help clients visualize an overall agenda for the course of their therapy
- One of the most important aspects of therapy is the collaboration between therapist and client, which homework can help strengthen through more concrete expectations. Also, assignments gradually offer clients opportunities for building their self-efficacy
Furthermore, Eric Goodman, Ph.D., of the Coastal Center for Anxiety Treatment added that a sizeable proportion of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) involves completing tasks outside of each session. Essentially, many people who undergo treatment experience progress that is proportional to what they put into their therapy.
“If you are serious about managing your anxiety disorder then challenging yourself with CBT (and the homework that comes along with it) is what gives you your best chance of victory,” said Dr. Goodman.
If you, a friend or family member needs professional help for a wide range of possible conditions, the California Dual Diagnosis Helpline can connect an individual with an effective treatment program specialized to his or her exact needs. Call to speak with a representative and get referred to a preferred form of rehabilitation or recovery in your area.