Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

A Psychoeducational Intervention to Promote Forgiveness in Christians in the Philippines

Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

A Psychoeducational Intervention to Promote Forgiveness in Christians in the Philippines

Article excerpt

Psychoeducational group interventions to promote forgiveness have been studied mainly with college students who are struggling to forgive. Mental health counselors must tailor interventions to different populations. It is important to investigate whether forgiveness interventions generalize to different contexts. In the present study, we provide a rigorous test for adaptation of one evidence-based psychoeducational group intervention. Five pre-test/post-test interventions were conducted in the Philippines adapting a five-step forgiveness model for both religion and culture. Groups were conducted at three Christian churches (n = 5 for individuals; and n = 8 and n = 7 for couples participating individually); one Christian retreat center (n = 8); and one college dormitory (n = 4). Participants reported a decrease in unforgiving motivations toward their offenders and an increase in forgiveness of the offenders. Adapting the Christian-oriented forgiveness model to both Filipino culture and religious terminology was generally effective, suggesting robust application in practice.

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Recently the scientific study of the psychological processes of forgiveness has flourished, mostly in secular populations (for reviews, see Enright & Fitzgibbons, 2000; McCullough, Pargament, & Thoresen, 2000; Worthington, 2005; Worthington & Wade, 1999). Interventions have been developed to promote forgiveness in psychotherapy (for reviews, see Enright & Fitzgibbons, 2000; Freedman, Enright, & Knutson, 2005; Malcolm, Warwar, & Greenberg, 2005); couple therapy (see Gordon, Baucom, & Snyder, 2005); and psychoeducational groups (see Baskin & Enright, 2004; Wade, Worthington, & Meyer, 2005). Several psychoeducational models have been used to promote forgiveness in populations that are not clinically troubled but express a need for mental health assistance. Most of these have been empathy-focused and have been efficacious in increasing forgiveness of a target transgression.

Most of the research on psychoeducational group interventions has involved college students (see Baskin & Enright, 2004; Wade et al., 2005). Providing controlled clinical evidence that an intervention to promote forgiveness can indeed do so is necessary before such interventions are widely employed. Mental health counselors can use psychoeducational groups as adjuncts to therapy to promote forgiveness for clients who have interpersonal relationship difficulties, who have experienced interpersonal traumas, or who express therapeutic goals that include forgiving. Counselors can also use such groups for community members not in therapy but seeking to deal with issues around transgressions. However, before doing so, it is wise to determine in controlled studies how well such groups can be adapted beyond the average college sophomore, even if the student is troubled by and seeking to forgive serious transgressions. The present study seeks to investigate whether a modified psychoeducational group intervention to promote forgiveness can work.

A commonly used psychoeducational group intervention is an empathy-focused program developed by Worthington and his colleagues for use in untargeted populations to promote forgiveness in people who have experienced hurts (McCullough, Worthington, & Rachal, 1997; Worthington, 1998). That manual-driven intervention has been tested frequently, with promising results, in groups of college students (McCullough & Worthington, 1995; McCullough et al., 1997; Worthington, Kurusu, Collins, Berry, Ripley, & Baler, 2000; Sandage & Worthington, 2010; Wade, Worthington, & Haake, 2009; Wade & Goldman, 2006). Empathy is important for building and maintaining emotional forgiveness (i.e., replacement of negative emotions with positive other-oriented emotions; Worthington & Wade, 1999), yet a commitment to decisional forgiveness--a statement of behavioral intention not to seek revenge against and not to avoid an offender (DiBlasio, 1998; Exline & Baumeister, 2000)--can be made apart from the experience of emotional forgiveness. …

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