In today’s video I want to respond to a question that came to me from Stephanie Caviness, who states she has a lot of clients that ask for homework and she wants to know, can I give homework without telling clients what to do and is that even sensible?
And Stephanie, so thank you for your question. A lot of people want to know how do I give clients homework in a way that doesn’t remove their autonomy? How do I give clients homework in a way that doesn’t make me the authority over them or over their lives? And the answer honestly is you can’t. So this urge typically comes from…so in Solution Focused Brief Therapy, we do this session where we ask clients questions and we ask them to describe a future in which they want to live.
We ask them what their desired outcome is, and then to describe a world that when their desired outcome has become their reality. And then we have this urge at the end of the session, we want to send them off in a way that helps them do the thing we just discussed. And I want to tell you, you have to fight that urge because any time you’re asking the client to do something, anytime you’re giving the client homework, you are becoming the authority and you are becoming the one responsible for the client change. You know you have to let the conversation itself, be the intervention in the way that the client lives their life. You have to let the conversation itself be the intervening thing in their life. And I know that that’s hard, but you have to practice Solution Focused Brief Therapy with discipline.
So Stephanie liked you, I’ve had many, many clients ask me at the end of the session, you know, could you give me some homework? And my response typically is, so imagine I did give you homework and I gave you the type of homework that made a difference in your life and impacted how things went, when you got home and you implemented the thing I asked you to do, how would you notice that it worked? What would you see that would tell you that the thing I asked you to do actually made a difference and clients will say like, well, I’d be happier. And then I tend to say, well, I want you to go home and just notice the presence of happier or whatever the thing is.
And when you come back to therapy we’ll talk about how you made that happen. So that’s typically how I respond. The moment you tell people what to do. There is no way to do that without becoming the authority. There is no way to do that without me becoming responsible for the client change. And I don’t want to do that. Once I start telling people what to do, there’s only two outcomes that can happen. First thing is I tell the client what to do. I want you to go home and I want you to do this, this and this. And the client comes back and they’re going to say, I did what you said and it didn’t work. And then they’re going to blame me for the absence of progress.
And the other thing that could happen is the client comes and they say, I went and I did what you said, and it did work. And then they’re going to give me credit for the presence of progress. And I want the client to be responsible for their own change. I want the client to take credit when things start going well. I think that’s the magic of Solution Focused Brief Therapy. And any time we start giving homework or tasks, we are kind of subtracting and taking away from that magic.
So Stephanie, I hope that answer helps and I love answering people’s questions. So if you have a question, you can email it to me. You can text it to me or put it in the comment section one of my videos and me or my team will collect it and see it. Maybe I’ll be responding in a video just like this, so you can get your question answered. So Stephanie, I hope this was a good answer. Everybody who is listening that has a similar question as Stephanie’s, I hope that that hit home for you. And thanks for watching.