Homework. Tools.


Worksheets and workbooks.


Action steps.

Some forms of psychotherapy use these elements more than others.  They feature prominently in coaching.  Exercises and homework have become so commonplace that some clients will ask for them.

When we ask for such a thing - a tool or a piece of homework - I think it is worth questioning with our therapists what it is we might be asking for when we want the homework.

This is the hard part because now we have to stay with an uncomfortable feeling. A tool to work on assigned by our therapist puts us into action mode. Staying with an uncomfortable feeling runs counter to most of us.

A client who wants a tool to help them manage their anxiety might, upon reflection about the feeling, say something like this: I don’t know if I can manage. I need help. My anxiety is overwhelming me.

To be able to feel this deeply and say it to another trusted person is important. The anxiety and the feeling of helplessness have meaning. Allowing what is to be and be shared is a crucial part of healing. Healing is about staying with the feeling, expressing it and seeing what happens next.

I spend a lot of time as a therapist working with my clients to develop coping strategies that will work for them. When someone is in crisis, they need a structure to function and sometimes therapy is about that structure and support. I don’t want what I have written here to minimize or dismiss good practical work.

What I am trying to open up is our jump to tools as magic pills and the value of taking a bit of time before making that jump.

Tools can help us only to the extent that they help us uncover ourselves and care for ourselves. So there is a dipping in process required. A dipping in to ourselves.

And once we dip into ourselves, it is no longer entirely about the tool. We begin to use the tool in a way that works for us. Which means no one can really tell us how to solve a particular problem. What we learn and experience about ourselves in the process is the thing itself.

Tools are contemplative experiments, new ways of encountering yourself. Not magic pills.

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