Homework isn’t just for students — completing homework between sessions allows counselling clients to increase retention of new skills, stay on track with their mental health journey, and reach their goals faster. Homework is no longer a ‘nice to have’ — it’s essential for client progress. Learn more about homework exercises for counselling clients.
The effects of homework on counselling outcomes
Studies have shown that homework compliance is linked to better treatment outcomes. The good news is that there’s a variety of assignments that clients and counsellors can choose from together. So if one method isn’t sticking, there are plenty of other exercises to experiment with.
Journalling is one of the most common homework exercises for counselling clients. Journaling has multiple positive effects on clients: less anxiety, reduced stress, and a more positive and pleasant outlook on life. It’s also highly accessible and inexpensive.
Clients often discount journalling because they don’t know what to write about — that’s where prompts come in. There are plenty of journal prompts to generate ideas and get the wheels turning. As clients gain more experience with journalling, many begin reaching for their journal on their own for a positive tool to organize their thoughts or process emotions. They may even surprise themselves with just how much or how often they write.
2. Breathing exercises
Breathing exercises are an effective way to reduce anxiety, stress, and calm the body. Clients can begin by incorporating breathing exercises into their daily routines. Encourage clients to schedule breathing for a few minutes once per day. The goal is to get them used to this exercise and to encourage them to get in the habit of using it in moments of stress and anxiety.
There are multiple breathing exercises clients can choose from. They may find that some are more effective than others. Encourage clients to try a few to discover what works best for them.
3. Mindfulness exercises
Another one of the most accessible homework exercises for counselling clients. Mindfulness-based interventions help clients become more aware of their thoughts and emotions, allowing them to halt negative thought patterns as they arise — shifting from negative, circular thinking, to more positive and rational thoughts. Over time, this is shown to be effective in reducing anxiety, stress, and depression.
Meditation is the most common and accessible form of mindfulness. It’s able to provide relief from both internalized struggles, and external stressors like hectic environments.
What the research shows:
- A study found that people who maintained a long-term meditation practice lowered the negative impacts of aging on the brain. Additionally, those who had an average of 20 years of meditation practice under their belts had more grey matter in the brain. The results showed that meditation has a widespread positive effect on multiple regions of the brain.
- A study from Johns Hopkins University found that meditation had the same effect as antidepressants on reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain. It’s an effective alternative for clients who either don’t want to take meditation or who haven’t responded well to medication in the past.
- Another study found that mindfulness was correlated with a reduction in symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). 93 participants showed a significant reduction in anxiety and an increase in positive self-statements.
Make homework as simple as possible
We know homework is effective at improving patient outcomes, but it’s also a new habit that clients will need support adopting. It’s all too easy for clients to forget about homework between sessions, so make it as simple as possible. Boost compliance and reduce barriers by making the homework experience as natural as possible for clients. A digital homework app like Therachat goes right on clients’ own devices — so they can access and complete their homework wherever they’re comfortable.
For counsellors, this means you have the ability to:
- Create and customize digital activities that can be assigned to multiple clients. Save time and help a wider scope of your practice.
- Follow-up with clients through an easy-to-use instant messenger that’s safe, private, and more convenient than texting with your personal number.
- Track and look back on client progress.
- Added security benefits like HIPAA compliance.
- No need to file and manage paper documents.
Ready to modernize your practice? Learn more about Therachat for clinicians.