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Therapy 'homework'

Discussion in 'Therapy' started by Poppycocteau, Jul 16, 2011.

  1. Poppycocteau

    Poppycocteau New Member

    I have been seeing my therapist since February, and am able to talk a little more than I could before about my trauma without breaking down, and I am learning to control the anxiety that going to the appointments produces in me a lot better too. At the last appointment, however, she said that she wants me to do half an hour of 'homework' each day - that is, half an hour of tackling my fears and exposing myself to triggers. I guess I'll try it, though I am very apprehensive and threatened by the idea - after all, it can't make me much more grumpy and horrible to be around than I am already . . . but has anyone else's therapist told them to do this? I haven't seen any such thing mentioned anywhere on here, and wanted to know what other people's thoughts were on a structured way of facing triggers as opposed to just doing it when one feels able to.
  2. SimplyComplex

    SimplyComplex New Member Premium Member

    I journal nearly every day and it is exposure...writing and thinking about trauma. My T told me to do it. I do a good deal of exposure all on my own, started before I started therapy. I worked my way through a list of exposure to females until I was able to see a female therapist...which is an exposure in itself (my primary abuser is female).

    I guess my t doesnt assign homework so much as makes suggestions. Like I never really "moved in" my house because I moved around so much growing up and we were always sort of the move. I have lived here 8 years...so we have talked about hanging pictures, painting a room, etc. I actually totally decorated a room this week :) So it is suggested homework.

    My husband's t give him homework. He had to design a box. He had to make a list of family things to do on weekends. Etc. I imagine when they start doing trauma work, she iwll give him trauma related homework, but right now they are working on self care and coping.

    So what will you work on first?
  3. charliehotelwhiskey

    charliehotelwhiskey Active Member

    I have also been journaling and my therapist has given me material to read and some excerises to try out. I find it really helpful and I have uncovered things about myself and things that were buried deep down inside me.
    The Albatross and Poppycocteau like this.
  4. seedling

    seedling VIP Member

    Poppy - I've had therapy homework doing some units on anger management. I found them intimidating at first and thought that the things I wrote down weren't "right." But my therapist was positive about my work every time. It gave him something to go on when we went over it and I got a lot of insight.

    If all you can do for the half hour is something very small, or getting up some courage, that will be enough. This is to help you, not prove a point. If this type of homework ends up not suiting you or not helping, you simply say so. It's your therapy, it can be tailored to your needs and goals.

    I'm not certain what your therapist means by exposing yourself to triggers - do you fully understand the task she is putting forward? If you don't quite know what to do make a start on what you think will help you and see how it goes. Then discuss it with her and go from there.

    I do write things down between sessions. Sometimes more, sometimes less. I tend to forget important thoughts/fears/insights quickly. If I write them down I can bring them up in a session if we end up doing something that relates. My T just gave me a daily checklist of symptoms on a numbered scale to keep as a "mood diary." I think it will help him to see what my main symptoms are and if I write things down as well, we can see perhaps what goes with those feelings and thoughts.

    Good luck.
    The Albatross and Poppycocteau like this.
  5. kimba

    kimba Well-Known Member Premium Member

    I also journal and include the good and bad. Right now I am a little confused and anxious about some recent developments. The journaling helps me remember what I want to mention in T too. Sometimes something will come up during the session and she'll ask me to think about it for next time etc.
    Hashi and Poppycocteau like this.
  6. drgnfl2078

    drgnfl2078 New Member

    My T has never told me to face my triggers; however I have done so on my own accord. As hard as it was leading up to it...it was equally rewarding. My thing is fireworks...but this 4th I went to a show with my friends...I sobbed through it and rocked myself in the fetal position during it...but I kept reminding myself I'm safe and I'm happy...see nothing is hurting me right now...its okay. :) I think its good to do when you are ready.
    Poppycocteau likes this.
  7. Poppycocteau

    Poppycocteau New Member

    Thankyou, everyone, for the helpful and informative replies. I feel more confident now about it, knowing that this sort of thing has worked well for others. I am supposed to be doing things like, for instance, reading a leaflet about eating disorders, or handling cigarette packets (things connected with my trauma) and practicing breathing exercises and convincing myself that these things can't hurt me now and have no meaning in themselves. I also have to deal with general, every-day anxiety such as 'irrational' worrying about Adam being killed while he is at work. To this end I also have to keep a mood diary, but I am finding that really hard because she said to write in it when my mood changes, but I feel like if I did that I'd never do anything else because my moods are so erratic! So I end up just writing in it once a day, if that, because the task of trying to catalogue all of my emotions and why I have them feels too daunting and insurmountable.
    Hashi likes this.
  8. Srain

    Srain "Please don't tell me not to cry." Premium Member

    I have a journal and do some stuff on my own but she doesn't give me homework which is unusual for me. I try to work on things myself, grounding techniques, etc.. I might talk to her about just what types of things you would start with, in my opinion you don't want to risk retraumatization.

    Rain
    Poppycocteau and Junebug like this.
  9. seedling

    seedling VIP Member

    I understand not being able to write down all your mood changes! It would be a huge job, I'm sure.

    I have to rate each of my feelings on a 0 - 3 scale for the day, hard to do since it can be a 3 in the morning and a 0 in the evening. Have to figure out a way of at least being consistent - lol.

    Good luck Poppy, you're on your way.
    Poppycocteau likes this.
  10. anthony

    anthony MyPTSD Admin Staff Member Premium Member

    If you aren't willing to help yourself by doing the work, then how do you feel you'll actually ever improve? A therapy session a week isn't going to do a great deal for you... that might keep you coping, but it won't fix a lot of the core issues.

    Homework is the only way a therapist has for a person to really want to make any progress, unless you have the money to book daily therapy appointments, which then you would get work done and achieved at a more rapid pace... but it comes with a cost.

    This site is all about self-help, about you helping you. If you aren't willing to help yourself, then your immediate response to the homework, "I guess I'll try it, though I am very apprehensive" says to me immediately, that you're looking for your therapist to solve your problems for you, instead of you doing the actual work yourself.

    You can change all that from changing that statement to: "I am committed to healing and will accomplish this daily homework task, regardless the fear I have or symptoms it creates, I will achieve." Vastly different mental approaches which derive vastly different outcomes. One you have given up near completely before you try, likely giving it a shot and stopping because it created symptoms and made you feel bad, the second is fighting the symptoms that are hindering you to achieve success, knowing that the desired outcome is long term improvement, acknowledging short term pain to achieve that result.

    Choice!
    Chincho, piratelady, ericaboo and 4 others like this.
  11. ronin47

    ronin47 Well-Known Member

    My therapist doesn't specifically call it "homework," but she does give me specific things to try to do and work on during the times we are not together such as journaling and identifying positive experiences. My first real therapist did call it homework occasionally, and it was hard, but if I gave it my best effort even if it didn't turn out the way it was supposed to he counted that as a success. For instance, in trying to help me be less isolated, he "assigned" me to do three social activities that involved reaching out to other people. I invited someone to have lunch with me but they declined and I got an acquaintance to go see a movie with me. However my third one fell through. I was going to go to a cultural movie night but got there late so that the door was already closed, the room dark, and the movie rolling. I lost my nerve and didn't go in. But just the fact that I gave it a try made my therapist happy. After all, you never know until you try. The fact that she is trying to push you to work on healing outside of her office shows me that she is invested in seeing you improve. It may seem like one step forward, two steps back at times, but before you know it you'll look back at the beginning and marvel at how far you've come without perhaps even realizing it.
    Poppycocteau likes this.
  12. SimplyComplex

    SimplyComplex New Member Premium Member

    The mood diary:
    Do you journal? When I used to struggle with knowing my feelings, I would write my feelings at the top of each entry. It helped me alot, now I am pretty good at knowing what I feel. Just a suggestion.
    Poppycocteau likes this.
  13. Poppycocteau

    Poppycocteau New Member

    Anthony, thank-you for your advice. I am willing to do the work myself and realise that no-one can do anything for me other than myself, I am just used to tackling something, waiting until I've calmed down, and doing the same again when I feel grounded enough to, rather than doing something every day regardless of how I feel. But, of course, you're right - this is a wussy approach really and I now feel confident enough to make the commitment to do something every day based on the advice and encouragement from your post and the others here :).

    Simply Complex - I will try that in the mood diary the therapist gave me, thank-you for that idea. It occurs to me that whilst I can often instantly identify how I feel - it's invariably anxious, stressed or angry - I often can't explain exactly why, and should practice this.

    Now I am going to spend half an hour reading the leaflet about eating disorders that she also gave me to read as homework.
    anthony likes this.
  14. ericaboo

    ericaboo under reconstruction Staff Member Premium Member

    I didn't understand how the homework was going to make a difference, but I got so desperate, the meds were getting less and less effective, and I know they are not the ultimate answer.

    It is really painful completing forms on the incidents that happen on a daily basis - it's like reliving it all over again. But...

    My therapist is starting to get the REAL skinny on what is going on with me - completely different - night and day - from what I was able to ramble at him during our short sessions which I am paying an arm and a leg for out of my own pocket.

    It's really true - I WILL have to do the work myself, and I'm hell bent and determined to succeed with this.
    Poppycocteau and anthony like this.
  15. Hashi

    Hashi VIP Member

    Before I begin journalling about trauma I usually acknowledge that I'm anxious and don't want to do it. It actually helps to say to myself that this is really hard for me but I'm going to do it all the same. At the end, I'll do something symbolic like draw a line under what I've put and write that I'm leaving all that in my journal now, it's going to stay there and I'm safe.

    When I've felt really disturbed by something I've written, I'll take the pages and shred them, then take them right out of the house straight away. It's a way of working on things but still keeping it contained.
  16. ClairBear226

    ClairBear226 Irony Consultant and Director of Chocolate Premium Member

    This looks like a pretty old thread, but it looks like it's been bumped up. Exposure to triggers was something I worked on a few months ago. I was about the most "anti-therapy" person on the planet, but I'll openly admit, this really worked wonders for me. I did about 9 sessions of prolonged exposure therapy, and aside from listening to the tapes of me telling about my trauma every night, I also had to expose myself to several of the triggers. The first one I tackled was the same type of rope I'd been tied with. My immediate reaction to it was severe and immediate. But the goal was to be exposed to it until the anxiety subsided. For me, that was about 40 - 45 minutes. Inside of a week, it had little to no effect on me at all. I found the same to be true about every trigger I faced this way. I'll admit, it sounds horrible, and sounds almost cruel to have to face such a thing. But it was amazing, how well it worked for me.
    Poppycocteau and ericaboo like this.
  17. maddog

    maddog VIP Member

    I must say that quite in contrast to my remembered experiences at school, I have found therapy homework to be an extremely productive, very rewarding and, at times, very grounding and secure part of my overall therapy experience.

    I say grounding and secure because it often helps me to maintain a form of psychological and emotional connection to the process and to my T between sessions, which, during the toughest of times, is extremely important for me in order to keep myself afloat.

    As one who finds it very difficult to speak and articulate myself well verbally sometimes, I often find that written homework tasks, such as to write about the meaning or interpretation of an event we have discussed, can be an excellent means of my exploring and communicating concepts I couldn't call to mind and voice at the time, which then allow us to work with and discuss those insights at the next session.

    My T is big on homework, needless to say, and I also frequently self-generate my own when I feel the need. My homework tasks do sometimes include explicit practical taskings and trigger confrontation such as is outlined above... come to think of it, I've been instructed to engage in daily train rides and crowd exposure between now and my next appointment on Thursday, and failing to comply just isn't an option, either for my T or I.

    Maddog
  18. Poppycocteau

    Poppycocteau New Member

    I freely admit that when I wrote the first post I was really scared - forcing myself to feel terrified and angry to the point of panic attacks and nausea seemed counter-intuitive. It's hard to rationalise that even though it feels terrible now, it will help in the long run. Some months on, I can see that Anthony, and everyone else who encouraged me, was right - I'm a different person to who I was last year. Cigarettes and that nicotine stuff for giving up smoking are a big trigger for me, and I used to feel choked and enraged whenever I had to go to a store with them in. I have to go to a pharmacy every day to pick up my medication, and I realised yesterday that for the past week for so, I had been standing near the 'Quitting Smoking' display without even really thinking about it. I was so proud and grateful to have reached that pint - I never could have imagined it last year.

    Ericaboo - I love your determination and hope - you will succeed, and I wish you strength to do so xXx
    Hashi, ericaboo and ClairBear226 like this.
  19. ClairBear226

    ClairBear226 Irony Consultant and Director of Chocolate Premium Member

    Sounds like you've come a long way. Good for you. You faced the fear, you did it anyway, and you came out on the other side. (where's an applause button when you really need one?) :tup:
    Poppycocteau and ericaboo like this.
  20. Hashi

    Hashi VIP Member

    *applause*
    Poppycocteau and ericaboo like this.

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