Giving good homework has always been tricky for me. I have many ideas, but making sure the homework is good, and effective, is sometimes a challenge. I am a proponent of homework. I believe homework must be given each session, even the first session. It may be simple, but it must be something that helps the counselee have some kind of success in whatever situation they find themselves, during the week.
Because I work specifically with men or couples, there are certain things I must take into consideration. One of those is the person’s ability to read and comprehend. I determine the counselee’s ability by having them read a small portion of Scripture a loud during the first counseling session.
I found (anecdotally) that many men who work with their hands have difficulty reading.
Greg Cook, one of my colleagues, writes, “I thought everyone could read in America. That’s not true. I assigned some homework to a couple with each having their own book to read. The wife called the office to cancel their appointment. I called and talked to his wife. Her husband wouldn’t come back because he believed I knew he couldn’t read and deliberately wanted to embarrass him. I haven’t made that mistake again.”
So what can you do with someone who is illiterate or semi-illiterate? What about a counselee with poor eyesight? With the counselee who has trouble reading, I may change the translation of the Bible that I use to make it easier for them to read. I will also assign shorter texts. I may print out the text using a large font. I may have his wife (or her husband) read the Bible to the counselee during the week. This is always my primary method of using the Scriptures and homework.
But this is also where creativity in counseling comes in. Certainly they can listen to the Bible audibly read to them, and this is a good tool for helping them to memorize, learn Scripture, and complete their homework. But another tool that may be beneficial to the counselor is the use of Christian music.
With careful selection and forethought, the counselor can assign the counselee Christian music to listen to throughout the week that will speak the truth of the gospel to the counselee without reading. Many hymns and current worship songs are rich in theology and gospel truth. Having the counselee listen to the songs repeatedly throughout the week and then calling for change based on what the songs are teaching is a secondary way of getting biblical truth into the heart of the counselee.
As a disclaimer, this is a secondary method. I always do everything I can for the counselee to be hearing, and when possible reading, the Word of God.
There is the use of music in the Bible both as worship and as a calming influence. In 1 Samuel 16, David plays music to sooth and relax Saul when he is being tormented by an evil spirit. Listening to music can evoke emotion and in many cases bring back good memories of “better times.” That same effect, with biblically sound music, can help our counselees who suffer from depression and anxiety. I have found that when certain counselees begin to become anxious, listening to Christian Music does, indeed, produce a calming affect while reinforcing truths such as:
- He will gold me fast
- The Lord is my Salvation
- All the way my savior leads me
- When nothing else could help, love lifted me
- Jesus paid it all
- Be still my soul
- From the darkness, I called your name Into darkness, your mercy came
- You are the only wise king
- Because he lives, I can face tomorrow
So consider how music may be a sound, secondary homework assignment. I have found it to be a valuable tool.