What Is Therapy Homework?

person writing in their journal

Astrakan Images / Getty Images

What Is Therapy Homework?

If you’ve recently started going to therapy, you may find yourself being assigned therapy homework. You may wonder what exactly it entails and what purpose it serves.

Therapy Homework

Therapy homework comprises tasks or assignments that your therapist asks you to complete between sessions, says Nicole Erkfitz, DSW, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker and executive director at AMFM Healthcare, Virginia.

Homework can be given in any form of therapy, and it may come as a worksheet, a task to complete, or a thought/piece of knowledge you are requested to keep with you throughout the week, Dr. Erkfitz explains.

This article explores the role of homework in certain forms of therapy, the benefits therapy homework can offer, and some tips to help you comply with your homework assignments.

Types of Therapy That Involve Homework

Therapy homework can be assigned as part of any type of therapy. However, some therapists and forms of therapy may utilize it more than others.

For instance, a 2019-study notes that therapy homework is an integral part of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). According to Dr. Erkfitz, therapy homework is built into the protocol and framework of CBT, as well as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which is a sub-type of CBT.

Therefore, if you’re seeing a therapist who practices CBT or DBT, chances are you’ll regularly have homework to do.

On the other hand, an example of a type of therapy that doesn’t generally involve homework is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. EMDR is a type of therapy that generally relies on the relationship between the therapist and client during sessions and is a modality that specifically doesn’t rely on homework, says Dr. Erkfitz.

However, she explains that if the client is feeling rejuvenated and well after their processing session, for instance, their therapist may ask them to write down a list of times that their positive cognition came up for them over the next week.

"Regardless of the type of therapy, the best kind of homework is when you don’t even realize you were assigned homework," says Erkfitz.

Benefits of Therapy Homework

Below, Dr. Erkfitz explains the benefits of therapy homework.

It Helps Your Therapist Review Your Progress

The most important part of therapy homework is the follow-up discussion at the next session. The time you spend reviewing with your therapist how the past week went, if you completed your homework, or if you didn’t and why, gives your therapist valuable feedback on your progress and insight on how they can better support you.

It Gives Your Therapist More Insight

Therapy can be tricky because by the time you are committed to showing up and putting in the work, you are already bringing a better and stronger version of yourself than what you have been experiencing in your day-to-day life that led you to seek therapy.

Homework gives your therapist an inside look into your day-to-day life, which can sometimes be hard to recap in a session. Certain homework assignments keep you thinking throughout the week about what you want to share during your sessions, giving your therapist historical data to review and address.

It Helps Empower You

The sense of empowerment you can gain from utilizing your new skills, setting new boundaries, and redirecting your own cognitive distortions is something a therapist can’t give you in the therapy session. This is something you give yourself. Therapy homework is how you come to the realization that you got this and that you can do it.

"The main benefit of therapy homework is that it builds your skills as well as the understanding that you can do this on your own," says Erkfitz.

Tips for Your Therapy Homework

Below, Dr. Erkfitz shares some tips that can help with therapy homework:

  • Set aside time for your homework: Create a designated time to complete your therapy homework. The aim of therapy homework is to keep you thinking and working on your goals between sessions. Use your designated time as a sacred space to invest in yourself and pour your thoughts and emotions into your homework, just as you would in a therapy session.
  • Be honest: As therapists, we are not looking for you to write down what you think we want to read or what you think you should write down. It’s important to be honest with us, and yourself, about what you are truly feeling and thinking.
  • Practice your skills: Completing the worksheet or log are important, but you also have to be willing to put your skills and learnings into practice. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and open to trying new things so that you can report back to your therapist about whether what you’re trying is working for you or not.
  • Remember that it’s intended to help you: Therapy homework helps you maximize the benefits of therapy and get the most value out of the process. A 2013-study notes that better homework compliance is linked to better treatment outcomes.
  • Talk to your therapist if you’re struggling: Therapy homework shouldn’t feel like work. If you find that you’re doing homework as a monotonous task, talk to your therapist and let them know that your heart isn’t in it and that you’re not finding it beneficial. They can explain the importance of the tasks to you, tailor your assignments to your preferences, or change their course of treatment if need be.

"When the therapy homework starts 'hitting home' for you, that’s when you know you’re on the right track and doing the work you need to be doing," says Erkfitz.

A Word From Verywell

Similar to how school involves classwork and homework, therapy can also involve in-person sessions and homework assignments.

If your therapist has assigned you homework, try to make time to do it. Completing it honestly can help you and your therapist gain insights into your emotional processes and overall progress. Most importantly, it can help you develop coping skills and practice them, which can boost your confidence, empower you, and make your therapeutic process more effective.

2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Conklin LR, Strunk DR, Cooper AA. Therapist behaviors as predictors of immediate homework engagement in cognitive therapy for depression. Cognit Ther Res. 2018;42(1):16-23. doi:10.1007/s10608-017-9873-6

  2. Lebeau RT, Davies CD, Culver NC, Craske MG. Homework compliance counts in cognitive-behavioral therapy. Cogn Behav Ther. 2013;42(3):171-179. doi:10.1080/16506073.2013.763286

By Sanjana Gupta
Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.