Homework, “at its best…is intended simply as a means for beginning and maintaining the regular practice of godliness required by Paul in 1 Timothy 4:7” (Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual, p. 298ff).
Homework allows God to do the work in the heart of the counselee rather than thinking that the counselor, is the healer of souls. This is because the homework happens in the presence of God, in the counselee’s home rather than in the presence of the counselor and in his office. Homework causes the counselee to look God in the face as he opens the Scriptures and hears the voice of God speaking to him. In the privacy of his own home, the counselee is able to pour out his life and heart to God and humbly ask for change and a new life. The counselor guides the counselee in telling him to whom to go for help, and where in the Word to go for help. But then, because the work is actually done at home, the counselor is able to get out of the way and let God work.
Homework sets a pattern for expectation of change. Right from the beginning, the counselee sees that God will be working through him as he does what God expects him to do. It is not that the counselee is doing the work, but that he is offering himself to God in a way that allows God to work through him to change his heart. Good homework gives hope to the counselee. It is a positive view of life and of God that gives the counselee hope for the future and a changed and joy filled life.
Homework clarifies expectations. Clear and specific homework can be tailored to the exact problems the counselee presents. It can be assigned in such a way that the counselee can go away knowing that he is really being helped and that change will most certainly occur. It is not vague nor unclear. He knows exactly what is expected and where it will be taking him.
Homework enables the counselor to do additional counseling more rapidly because it adds to the data already gathered. In a simple hour of counseling, the counselor is very limited. Giving homework allows the counselor to give much more direction, share much more wisdom, and allow God to work over the course of several days instead of just an hour. God, working in the life of the counselee, is the key. Trying to do all the work in the counselor’s office can actually get in the way of bringing the person to Christ for help. The counselee needs to be with God more than he needs to be with the counselor. The counselee getting together with God in the homework is where the real progress happens. The counselor merely points the way.
Homework keeps counselees from becoming dependent upon the counselor. There is a temptation to think that the counselor is indispensable in the counseling process. When this happens, the counselee can become dependent on the counselor. He might call him every time something wrong happens or whenever some sort of sin occurs. Homework takes the focus off the counselor and puts it on God where it belongs. The counselee needs to look to God for his comfort. He needs to learn to run to Christ when his world is caving in. He needs to have faith and to trust in God rather than the counselor. Homework helps the counselor get out of the way and let God be where he ought to be in the counselee’s life.
Homework enables both the counselor and the counselee to gauge progress. If the homework is specific, the completion of the homework or lack thereof can reveal things about the counselee or counselor’s assignment that is helpful in the counseling process. Not doing the work because of laziness or sin tells everyone where the process is headed. If the person doesn’t understand the assignment the counselor needs to make it simpler the next time or explain it better in the future. If the counselee is flying through it and learning things in leaps and bounds, the counselor and counselee can both see the growth and praise the Lord together for it.
Homework allows the counselor to deal with problems and patterns that develop under controlled current conditions. This is an aspect of homework that helps the counselor and counselee discover problems other than those originally presented. It is possible and, even probable, that during the week when the counselee is doing his homework, problems he was formerly not aware of will reveal themselves. Homework facilitates God’s working even when the counselee is working alone at home.
Homework helps the counselor by guiding him to be disciplined in his counsel. Counselors will often think they have solved a counselee’s problem because he has explained it and has given good counsel regarding how to live in the future. But homework forces the counselor to take a few extra steps to ensure that the counselee really understands and is making real progresses in dealing with his life problems. It also keeps the counselor focused on the problem at hand instead of broadcasting his counsel.
Homework helps the counselor by giving him a goal and direction for each counseling session. This point coincides with the previous one. Homework that is well thought out not only gives a check for the previous week’s work, but it also gives a direction for the next week’s work. Homework focuses the counselor on the exact task at hand and helps guide the process in a helpful direction.
Homework helps the counselor by forcing him to think about solutions to the counselee’s problems in a biblical way.