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Tasking in therapy

Tasking in therapy

Tasking is one of the most crucial aspects of the therapeutic relationship. It is one of the fundamental ways of motivating your clients. As long as you ensure they do not see this as being like homework (unless of course they liked homework!), you will find that being required to complete tasks, which are designed completely for their benefit (this fact must be 100% clear), will be appreciated.

It is important that tasking is built into the understanding of the relationship, but the therapist needs to be aware that he/she is requesting the client to do things, but a therapist cannot make them! They always have a choice. As choice is one of the primary things that a therapist is encouraging their clients to accept as a basic premise in life, this can work to therapeutic advantage!

Clients have the option of saying  œyes no, I’ll think about it or making a counter offer. It can be a good idea for a therapist to set up the thought of counter offers at the contracting stage, to avoid the no. However, a no can open up an interesting line of discussion. Why are they saying no? Some sort of resistance must be going on, but what does it mean?

When the client has agreed to a task in general, let’s say to call two firms each day to enquire about job vacancies, the task then needs to be pinned down. Here are the standard questions to ask, which can be varied according to the circumstances:

  1. What will you do?
  2. When will you do it?
  3. How will I know?

In the above example, it would be more appropriate to ask “How are you going to choose the firms to call? rather than question one as the what was already clear.


Tasks should embody the SMART  acronym (just as goals):






A specific way to do this is to encourage them to set their own consequence system in place. Consequences are to be positive for achievement, and negative for the opposite. In this example, the client may decide to put £5 toward a new dress for every call she makes, and to give £5 to charity for every call she misses. Amounts will obviously vary according to the persons circumstances, and consequences do not need to involve money.

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