Why Give Homework?

April 30th, 2021 by posted in Counseling

What are the doctrines that drive homework?

The doctrine of Scripture.

Biblical counselors want to help their counselees think biblically about life issues. The counselee’s mind needs to be renewed; he needs to process his difficulties God’s way. Biblical understanding leads to actions, doing what is biblically appropriate in each part of a situation.

The Biblical counselor works to get the counselee into the word of God right away so that the counselee’s agenda for counseling becomes increasingly biblical. Homework enables the counselee to mine the riches of Scripture for understanding, conviction, promises, and guidance.[1]

Biblical homework places the counselor and the counselee under the authority of God through the Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16). Biblical homework reinforces the truths of the sufficiency of Scripture for the life issues being struggled with by the counselee (2 Peter 1:3).

The Doctrine of Human Responsibility

The Bible teaches that each one of us stands responsible before God and that we will all give an account for our actions (Hebrews 4:12-13). We are to look to ourselves before we condemn others (Matthew 7:5).

Our natural tendency is to shift the blame of our sin to others (Genesis 3:12-13). Proper homework focuses the counselee on himself, rather than others or circumstances. Because all humans are responsible we must be actively involved in helping the counselee examine himself, and the hope independency he must have on God.

The Doctrine of God

Biblical counselors stand apart from all other systems in that they believe God is the one who changes people. The distinctive of biblical counseling is its trust in a redeeming God who has the power to change the human heart. The biblical counselor sees himself not as the creator of change but as an instrument in the hands of one who can create change superior to anything the counselor or counselee could ask were imagined. The problem is that people lose sight of God in the midst of their circumstances and self-centeredness of their flesh[2]

When we focus on the Scriptures, and specifically on God, the counselee’s dependence is in the right place; not on the counselor and the weekly “magic hour” spent in session.

The Doctrine of Sin

The problems presented by counselees are not the core issues. The core issues are idols of the heart. While circumstances may be contributive to the behavior, they are not causative. The cause of our negative behavior is sin. In other words, in order for God to transform the counselee, he will work at the root of the problem, not simply the behavior. If basic lasting change is going to take place, the counselee must understand the issues and his suffering in the context of his sin.

Biblical homework is the key. For it is the Scripture that “…discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12b). As Christ demonstrated in Mark chapter 8, many Christians are like the blind man who was partially healed. They are not blind, but they do not see clearly. The Word of God focuses our introspection squarely on our sin. The doctrine of sin calls for homework that assists the counselee in opening their eyes to what truly needs transformed.

The Doctrine of Transformation

While the counselee is positionally sanctified at salvation, he is conformed to the image of Christ throughout his or her life. It is a process initiated by the grace and power of God that allows the counselee to work out his salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

Homework teaches the counselee that growth in grace doesn’t come by lightning bolts and magical encounters but by humble, honest, obedient, and practical application of God’s Word to the specifics of everyday experience. In sanctification God calls his children to follow, stand fast, forsake, trust, put off and put on, run, obey, put to death, study, flee, and resist.[3]

 What are the benefits of homework for the counselor?

Counselors must always take the counselees problems seriously. We must never diminish the sin or behavior that is being presented. Even small things that seem normal and reasonable to the counselor are truly sins in the lives of the counselee. This seriousness requires that we care enough about the counselee to give them homework designed to aid in their transformation.

There are at least six benefits of homework for the counselor[4]:

  1. Homework helps the counselor identify whether or not there is a true counselee. One such person is whom Jay Adams calls the Professional Counselee because he is not coming for help but to test the counselor, or discuss theory.[5] In other instances counselee’s may have come under duress and/or have no desire for counsel and change. The counselee who maintains a pattern of undone homework tips his hand to this circumstance.
  2. Homework enables the counselor to accelerate the process. This occurs in two ways: (1) homework is an extension of the counselor and teaching throughout the week. (2) The counselor can incorporate outside resources from other counselors and authors that benefit the counselee with additional guidance. Through the teaching of homework, counselees are “discipled” and become competent in Bible study and application. This help reduce the dependence of the counselee on the counselor.
  3. Homework assists the counselor in monitoring the progress of the counselee.
  4. Homework forces the counselor to be a continuing student of the Word. Since it is the work of the Holy Spirit as the counselor brings the Word to bear in the life of the counselee, the counselor must knowingly and accurately bring the Word to bear.
  5. Homework gives the counselor the starting point for the following session.

What are the benefits of homework for the counselee?

From the very outset they [counselees] are required to do what God expects of them in the light of Scripture and in dependence upon the power of the Holy Spirit. The counselor does not do their work for them. He coaches them; he is a shepherd who leads his sheep. Yet they do the work. He insists that they learn to “work out their salvation” (solution) through obedience to God and dependence upon his aid. Homework puts the emphasis where it belong – upon the counselee’s responsibility to God and his neighbor[6]

What are some basic benefits of homework for the counselee? Homework keeps the counselee in Scripture, Homework engages his heart, Homework makes him responsible for his behavior, Homework makes him participate actively during every phase of counseling, and Homework advances the work of the counselor as the counselee takes the counselor home with him in the form of practical, productive, wise, and God honoring homework.

In Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands we covered the counseling model of Love, Know, Speak, and Do. In appendix 5 the author redefines those terms in the setting of homework as Welcome, Understand, Confront and Comfort, and Action.[7]

In the Welcome (Love) phase the goal is to build rust and hope. Homework here should provide hope. Counselees come with little or no hope. While the counselor gives hope during the counseling session, hope continues to be built through the homework given. Hope is given as the counselee realizes the counselor has heard their concern, it has been taken seriously, they are seeking to understand what the counselee is struggling with, God is involved, and there is hope and help found in him.

The use of the 1 Corinthians 10:13 study[8] can be very helpful as a starting homework assignment.

The second phase of counseling is to Understand (Know) the counselee and their issues to properly focus on what matters. One of the most beneficial homework assignments is asking the counselee to keep a daily journal. The journal entries are not of everything that happened that day. They are for logging a specific area that the counselor believes needs to be exposed.

Next, Confront and Comfort (Speak). This helps the counselee see themselves biblically and help them embrace God’s promises. It may include Instructional homework such as the “What is the Christian Life?” study.[9]

Other studies about the heart, idolatry, identity in Christ, who is God and what is He doing are appropriate.

Finally, is a call to Action (Do) where the counselee makes biblical corrections and institutes new biblical habits. Examples of this are:

  1. Ask the counselee to set goals for himself where change needs to take place.
  2. Ask the counselee to list under each goal specific ways to accomplish that goal.
  3. Ask the counselee to prioritize the goals and the tasks listed under each goal.
  4. Defining responsibilities is very important.

Possible Homework for Overcoming Depression

  1. Study the following verses and list the things that could be circumstantial causes for depression.Psalm 73:1-14 Deuteronomy 1:28,29Luke 24:17-21
  2. Note particularly the circumstances that are present when you are prone to become depressed
  3. Psalm 55:2-8
  4. Genesis 4:6, 7
  5. Psalm 32:3,4
  6. According to I Peter 1:3-5, II Corinthians 6:10, and I Thessalonians 4:13, are sorrow and rejoicing incompatible? What is the difference between sorrow and depression?
  7. Philippians 4:4 tells us to “rejoice in the Lord.” What do the words “in the Lord” suggest about the way to overcome depression? What does it mean to be “in the Lord?” What does it mean to “rejoice in the Lord?” Are you “in the Lord?” List the reasons that you have for rejoicing “in the Lord.”
  8. Make a list of responsibilities. Note which ones you are fulfilling well and regularly. Also note those that you have been or are prone to neglect because you don’t feel like doing them. Ask God to help you do what you should do regardless of how you feel, plan a schedule which gives you time to do all that you really must do, and then get busy fulfilling your responsibilities. Don’t focus on how bad you feel or how you dislike the task. Focus rather on God, His will for you, His promises and provisions for you, and the help He will give you to do anything that He wants you to do (Phil. 2:12, 13; 4:13). In all you do in obedience to God, count on His presence and help and blessing.

[1] Tripp, Paul David, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands (R&R Publishing, 2002), 319

[2] Tripp, Paul David, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands (R&R Publishing, 2002), 322

[3] Tripp, Paul David, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands (R&R Publishing, 2002), 326

[4] Ibid. 304-312

[5] Jay Adams, Christian Counselor’s Manual (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973), 298

[6] Jay Adams, Christian Counselor’s Manual (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973), 306

[7] Tripp, Paul David, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands (R&R Publishing, 2002), 331

[8] Tripp, Paul David, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands (R&R Publishing, 2002), 339

[9] Ibid. 351-352.

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