Homework is very important part of therapy, as well. A week as 168 hours, and for the most part, clients spend 167 hours outside of the therapist's office. That leaves a lot of time to do something to bring into the next session as another fight, another let down, another bad experience.
Homework is about carrying the session's work forward throughout the week. To try something different, or at least to look at an event differently so that you can respond to it differently. Think of it as a chance to test the insights, behaviors and actions uncovered the week prior.
We all get busy at times, but that shouldn't be a reason to not put in the work necessary for the relationship or problem, whatever that may be.
I recently listened to a lecture by Douglas Brooks on some very old mythological stories from the Indian subcontinent – it was not about therapy – and he said something that really struck me as a couple's therapist:
Collaboration is an invitation for conflict and conflict is an
invitation for collaboration.
Collaboration takes work, as does conflict. This little bit of wisdom doesn't make mention of fighting, punching or name calling – things that turn conflict into an argument and prevent couples from tackling the issue at hand.
A go-to homework assignment I use is for the couple to not fight for the next week. Just don't do it. It takes 2 people to fight. Instead, take note of what is going on: What is triggering the point of conflict; what feelings are coming up; where are they coming from?
Get to the root of it, and bring it to the next session to discuss, rather than a “person 1 said/person 2 said”. Don't use the time to rehash, refight. Rather, this insight will fuel a deeper discussion with another homework assignment for the next week, and so the cycle begins. Just like the bit of wisdom by Brooks is a cycle.
Coming to therapy is only part of the equation. Doing the homework can be more important. Commit to one, commit to the other and commit to your relationship.
This Topic of the Week was written by Brian Swope, MFT.