Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Human Development and Family Studies

Department name when degree awarded

Family and Human Development

Committee Chair(s)

Thorana S. Nelson


Thorana S. Nelson


A qualitative study was conducted to better understand how marriage and family therapists use homework directives in their work with couples. Eleven therapists of different marital therapy orientations were interviewed. Remarkably, all of the therapists reported using clinical homework directives in their practice with couples, including those clinicians who primarily identify themselves with psychodynamic models- -models that do not typically include homework in their constructs. Four themes emerged as to why homework is given: (a) to augment or extend the therapy session outside of therapy, (b) to help the clients focus on the therapy process between session, (c) to assess client problems or dynamics for the therapist and the client, and (d) to communicate clients' responsibility for change. Themes concerning the types of homework clients used are (a) behavioral--specific physical actions to do between sessions; (b) communication exercises; (c) writing assignments; and (d) combinations of behaviors, communication exercises, or writing assignments. Results also indicate that most of the therapists in the study subscribe to more than one model of therapy in their clinical work with couples.