Homework and Couples Therapy - Pros and Cons

Many couples starting couple therapy wonder if there will be homework assignments. In my own practice. I sometimes suggest homework assignments, depending on the couple and their rate of progress in therapy.

What is good about homework assignments?

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Studies of homework assignments have generally not provided conclusive evidence that homework assignments improve outcomes for couples. 

Follow up studies conducted one year after the completion of counseling indicated no difference in relationship satisfaction in couples who did or did not receive homework assignments

A new study dug deeper into the question and found that homework is beneficial for some couples.  Couples who are highly motivated to work on their relationship and couples who don't have children are more likely to complete home assignments.  Couples who have children, couples who doubt their relationship can be saved, or couples who have significant time or work constraints (i.e. lots of business travel or long work hours) tend not to complete assignments.

There is a reward for couples who work on homework assignments. These couples tend to complete therapy in about half the time as non-homework couples.

Homework and non-homework couples obtain the same levels of improvement in their relationship.  Couples who don't do homework just seem to take longer to get there.

What if I'm interested in adding homework to my sessions?

If you are interested in completing homework assignments, talk to your therapist.

Some modes of couple's counseling specifically call for couples to do all of the work in the therapist's office so that the psychologist can interrupt couples who are escalating and introduce important information or communication techniques that the couple can practice with the therapist present to provide guidance.

Ultimately, you should be in charge of your own therapy. Be sure to tell your therapist what is working for you and what is not. Feedback is always welcome from clients as it helps us become better therapists.