Set Teen Clients Up for Success with these Therapeutic Homework Strategies

By Jonathan Barkin, PsyD, author of The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook for Teens

Teens’ developmental stage, desire for independence, and busy lives can make consistent completion of homework challenging. Here are five ways to increase homework compliance:

  1. Framing the problem. It is easy to assume that your client views therapy homework as important, but this might not be true. Start by learning how your client views the importance of homework in therapy. Once you fully understand your client’s view, move on to framing why you view the homework as being critical to success.

  2. Connect the homework to the treatment goals. While some homework in therapy has a clear connection to therapy goals, other assignments might not be so clear. Further, if a client is skeptical of an intervention’s helpfulness, connecting the intervention to the client’s goals can increase motivation to do the work.

  3. Choosing the right order. Think through and evaluate the likelihood of the client being able to follow through on the task. Create momentum and begin with homework assignments that have a high probability of completion. As you scale to more difficult homework, try and keep the likelihood of completion high by problem-solving pitfalls and adjusting the assignment accordingly.

  4. Use technology. Technology can help with consistency, make homework more enjoyable, and increase your teen client’s access to the necessary materials. Consider using apps, reminders, and push notifications as problem-solving options for common issues impacting homework completion.

  5. Involve others. Teens often prefer to be independent. However, support from family or friends, doing homework with others when possible, and receiving encouragement can be very powerful tools. Consider Socratic questioning around the pros and cons of using others to support homework completion.

Jonathan R. Barkin, PsyD, is a licensed clinical psychologist, partner at the San Francisco Bay Area Center for Cognitive Therapy, and assistant clinical professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Barkin has extensive experience in the treatment of severe anxiety disorders. He specializes in the treatment of anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders in children, teens, and adults. Barkin presents lectures and workshops to professionals in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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