Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Psychotherapy Homework

I often ask my psychotherapy clients to complete a PSQ (Presession Questionnaire) prior to their session on which I have written, “IF THERE WAS ONE VARIABLE THAT I HAD TO CHOOSE TO PREDICT WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO BENEFIT FROM PSYCHOTHERAPY, IT WOULD BE THOSE THAT FOLLOW THROUGH WITH AND COMPLETE THEIR HOMEWORK.”

 I had written that some years ago, and continue to attest to its truth.  But then the task is how to follow through with what it is we want to change or improve about ourselves?  How do we reduce procrastination and increase productivity? I often ask clients when you change for the better, what will that look like?  How will we know that the change has taken place?  What will be different?  This is an excellent way to form a goal in your mind; by making your goal specific and imagining the benefits of your self-improvement.  It is also helpful to make changes as part of your daily routine.  For example, people are often consistent with their meditation practice if they meditate the same time every day or the exercise enthusiast who invariably goes to the gym immediately after work.    

Another strategy or technique for self-improvement is just the process of logging and tracking what it is you are trying to change. In this way, a food log or calorie counter phone app can be helpful for weight loss and I, yet again, refer to Insight Timer for tracking meditation sessions. I recently started referring psychotherapy clients to the website MindQuire which can be very helpful for both therapist and client to monitor client’s follow through with homework and use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques. MindQuire also lists a number of research articles related to the benefits of psychotherapy homework.  To help clients stay on task, I often recommend the Pomodoro Technique , a time-management focus technique to help motivate, concentrate, and achieve a sense of accomplishment by working on a specific undertaking for a short amount of time.

With the establishment of goals and a little bit of structure and practice, change is ALWAYS possible. If you lose your focus or become distracted, don’t be discouraged. As the Pomodoro strategy advises, “The next Pomodoro (activity) will go better.”