Many therapists will use homework to support treatment goals. I am certainly one of those therapists. Homework can come in a variety of forms and should be specific to each individual's needs. Sometimes homework will be to practice a skill, other times it will be to engage in a challenging behavior or to visit a certain place.
Generally my "homework assignments" come organically in session and are essentially small goals for the following week. If I just reviewed the basics of deep breathing, your homework may be to practice this through the week. If we are discussing communication skills, the assignment is likely to be to use these skills with the appropriate people. Some counselors will assign homework that relates to session topics but are an expansion based on what the therapist thinks will be helpful. They may provide you with their suggested homework during or at the end of session. These may also be practicing skills, taking time to think about a certain prompt, or avoiding a behavior.
Hopefully the concept of having therapy homework makes sense to you. It operates on the same premise as the homework we have all had to do in school - by practicing throughout the week, it supports and expedites the therapy process. If you are only going to therapy once every week or two, there is a long period between appointments that should be used to help your progress. If you only do your thinking and practicing during sessions, progress will be slow and likely unrewarding. If you follow through with homework established in sessions, you can expect to experience stronger and quicker results than only doing work in therapy sessions.
If you are getting assignments from your therapist that you don't feel are helpful, are too easy or hard, or otherwise don't seem beneficial to your treatment -- talk to your therapist! All therapy is dependent on collaboration between client and therapist, and you should feel comfortable asking questions about homework (and techniques in general). Sometimes you may need to push yourself try some homework that you aren't so fond of. Your therapist may have some insight that will truly be beneficial and can only be learned by your follow-through. Keeping a dialogue going about what you feel is helpful, confusing, or detrimental is important to your overall progress and happiness in therapy.
All therapists are going to approach the initial phase in their own ways, but many are offering consultations to get an idea of why you are seeking therapy, what you are looking for, and to offer a chance to assess how their style might fit you. Of course, you can't get a full picture of how a therapist will operate based on a consultation, but it can give some helpful clues as to whether you think it will be a good fit.
Don't worry about being particularly prepared for the consultation. All you need is to make the initial phone call, email, or online appointment. Once you have your consultation appointment, the therapist will take the lead. Personally, I'll ask about what has been going on for you lately, how long this has been a concern, and what you types of goals you have. Plenty often clients don't know their goals right away, so we can spend time in the first few sessions identifying what will be different when the presenting problem is gone or better managed.
In this consultation, we are able to assess whether our therapy is likely to be right for you. If not, we can help link you with more appropriate resources. This might mean a different type of mental health (such as me referring to a clinic for those that aren't Skype-appropriate) or to community resources, like recreation centers, town supports, and self-help groups.
So, the most important message is, try not to stress yourself with expectations for the consultation. You don't have to direct the conversations, just answer questions to the best of your knowledge. Don't worry about if some of your answers are "I don't know." And don't worry if your answers aren't the most eloquent, we understand!
Just getting started in therapy can be anxiety-provoking enough to completely avoid it. Even if you don't suffer from social anxiety, just having to make the first phone call, or even email, can be too overwhelming. There are so many questions we end up asking ourselves when we are nervous, and sometimes we know they don't even make sense, but we ask them regardless. Here are a few of what I expect to be the most common, along with some rebuttals to hopefully help you feel ready to try!
What if I am so nervous that I make a fool of myself when I call?
What if I am not right for therapy or if the therapist can't help me?
What if I don't like the therapist or have had a bad experience in the past?
What if I have something embarrassing to share?
about the Posts
In these posts and videos I share information about my own practice, therapy in general, and skills you can use in your daily life.