One of the Top Ways to Predict Treatment Success
As a Cognitive-Behavioral Therapist working with individuals with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Anxiety, I have come to observe first-hand, that one of the top ways to predict treatment success is homework compliance. In my experience, clients who make a valid effort each week to complete their assignments achieve faster, and more pronounced results, than those who do not.
Now, wait a second. You might be thinking, "Homework? In therapy?"
Now, when I say homework, I don't mean those long, boring, and sometimes "busy work" assignments you had to do in high school. I can assure you, therapy homework is quite different. In fact, therapy assignments are probably the most meaningful and important homework you will ever do. Why? Because they're not for anyone else's benefit but your own - helping you to become an expert at managing your own emotions, so that you not only get better, but stay better. And who doesn't want to feel good?
Below are a few (among many) reasons why homework compliance correlates so highly with treatment success:
Homework reinforces skills and concepts learned in session: It is silly to learn a helpful skill, only to keep it in the back of your mind and never use it. The goal is to become so fluent in new, helpful, and adaptive skills, that your old (and unhelpful) ways of coping take a back seat, and ultimately fade away. Without conscious practice of new skills, old approaches will automatically creep in, and be reinforced instead.
Practice is everything. If you want to become a top-notch athlete, it would be a long and frustrating journey only kicking around that soccer ball one hour per week.
Homework encourages personal goal-setting: Homework is another way of saying, "these are the personal goals I would like to achieve this week." It encourages a mindset of growth, self-reflection, and perseverance, and promotes the feeling of accomplishment - after all, who doesn't feel good after achieving a goal?
Engaging in homework is a form of self-empowerment: It is making a deliberate choice to take control of your situation, help yourself, and come out on the other side feeling happier, healthier, and more in control of your symptoms and emotions. Using self-empowerment teaches you that you can rely on yourself to get through a difficult time. Since no one can do your personalized homework for you, completing these assignments is a way of building and strengthening your pro-active, can-do muscle, which can be used to get through any situation that comes your way.
Homework serves to gauge progress: As treatment progresses, looking back at past homework assignments can be one of the most powerful tools to help you realize and appreciate your progress. I often hear clients exclaim after looking back at their first few assignments, "Wow! I can't believe I even had to practice that! It's so second nature to me now." In those moments, clients further realize the benefits of their own hard work, and gain an improved understanding between a relapse and a slip. When clients begin to feel a bad week has left them taking several steps back, one quick look at their past assignments can show they are still miles ahead of when they first began treatment.
Now, the expectation is not for homework to be done perfectly each week. Obstacles arise, symptoms interfere, practical problems show up. The goal is for clients to complete their homework to the best of their ability, work during session on problem-solving any challenges that arose, and then try again for the following week, either with the same assignment, or a modified version to better fit their needs.
And remember, there are an endless combination of assignments that can be created based on your specific symptoms and challenges. Assignments are never imposed on you, but rather, we create them together, and begin working on them right in session. That gives us a chance to see if any parts of the assignment appear confusing or too ambitious. The last thing we want is for you to go home feeling overwhelmed.
As I say to my clients, we are a team from start to finish.
DISCLAIMER: The blog posts shared on www.StacySmithCounseling.com contain the opinions of Stacy Smith, MS, LPC, and do not reflect the opinions of any organizations or affiliates. While Stacy is a licensed mental health professional, all blog posts on her site are for informational purposes only, and are never a substitute for professional advice catered to your individual needs. Stacy Smith is not liable for any diagnosis, treatment plans, or decisions made based on the information presented on this website. Furthermore, commenting on posts does not mean a treatment relationship has been established with Stacy Smith.