The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook for Teens: CBT Skills to Help You Deal with Worry and Anxiety includes many activities that will help your teen clients feel more relaxed and worry free.
Each workbook activity includes two exercises that teach teens a particular skill. Most times, you’ll want teens to practice the workbook exercises as homework, even if you only ask teens to read an exercise and give a “book report” to the you at the next appointment.
Encouraging teen clients to practice the workbook skills in and between therapy sessions helps them strengthen these skills and make them automatic so that they can use a skill quickly in the moment when they’re feeling stressed, anxious, or worried.
To increase the likelihood that teens complete these therapy homework assignments and learn what you want them to learn, here are six tips for assigning therapy homework to teens:
- Provide a rationale linked to teen’s treatment goals. It’s essential that teen clients understand how a particular activity will help them reduce their stress if that is one of their therapy goals. We tend to complete tasks when we understand the benefits of doing the task, and teens are not an exception to this rule. If the teen sought psychotherapy for other goals, you may wish to connect the homework assignment to those goals too. For example, if the teen sought therapy following a recent breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend, you’ll want to explain how the proposed activity (for example, deep slow breathing) will help the teen manage the emotional aftermath of the breakup itself.
- Ask teens to rate their confidence about completing a homework assignment. There may be a number of reasons teens have low confidence that they’ll complete a particular workbook exercise assigned as homework. Ask teens to rate their confidence, from 0% to 100%, and adjust the homework assignment until they’re 90% confident (or greater) that they can complete the homework as described.
- Discuss with teens the obstacles to completing a homework assignment. There may be real or imagined obstacles to completing a therapy homework assignment. Explore possible obstacles to completing the homework assignment and brainstorm possible solutions or work-arounds to the obstacles with teen clients. This is a great way to model and practice effective problem solving with teens.
- Set up the homework assignment as a “no lose” proposition. Explain to teens that they’ll learn something helpful no matter how well the homework assignment turns out. This approach is particularly helpful for stressed, over-anxious or depressed teens who may hesitate trying a homework assignment for fear they’ll fail at it.
- Set up homework assignments as learning experiments. The objective of any workbook exercise, whether completed in session or out of session, is that teens learn something that will help them manage their stress and anxiety. Setting up homework assignments as experiments can pique teens’ curiosity and increase their willingness to try them. Explore with teens their predictions regarding how helpful the exercise might be. For example, when teaching Slow Deep Breathing, ask teens to predict their level of stress before and after they practice the deep slow breathing skill. When teen clients actually experience the benefit of a skill in session with you, they’re more likely to try it as homework and more likely to use it in general.
- Always review homework assignments with teen clients. If you don’t review homework assignments, teens may begin to believe that they’re not important. Set aside time in every therapy session to review the homework assignment. Ask teens whether the homework assignment was helpful or not and how they might change the homework to make it more helpful. Always praise teens for trying homework assignments and strive to include homework assignments in every therapy session.