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Recently I had a good discussion with my internship class on the role and purpose of homework in counseling. What could be more straightforward than suggesting a client do something between sessions that might be helpful? However, as most tools in the counselor’s toolbox, there is an appropriate time and place for each one. I believe the same applies to the issue of homework. Here are three of the considerations we discussed.

First, a counselor needs to recognize where they believe the “magic” of counseling occurs. Does the real power come from the conversation and relationship between the client and the counselor? Proverbs 18:21 reminds us that “death and life are in the power of the tongue” so there seems to be at least some warrant for “magic” occurring during the counseling session. On the other hand, the Holy Spirit is not limited to one scheduled fifty minute session. He can encourage and convict through a wide variety activities such as: reading Scripture and other books, completing workbooks, journaling and practicing spiritual disciplines just to name a few.

Second, if assigning of homework becomes a regular part of counseling, this tends to reinforce the power of the counselor and potentially diminish the power of the client. Many counselors are very comfortable working with this much power; others might not be.

And finally, if homework is assigned, it has to be “graded”. This is a lesson those of us in academics have had to learn the hard way. What if they have not done it? This happens frequently in counseling and can potentially shift the direction of counseling from the presenting problem to an issue of compliance. This is not a problem if there is no homework to grade in the first place. 

Bryan Maier, Psy. D.  is an Associate Professor of Counseling & Psychology in the Masters of Arts in Counseling Program at Biblical. He maintains a private practice at Diane Langberg & Associates. 

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