• Forgiveness and psychotherapy

      Stipe, Ann Marie; DiBlasio, Frederick A. (1995)
      Forgiveness as a concept has been examined in the field of religion, philosophy, law, medicine, and the social sciences. In contrast, the literature on forgiveness and its role in psychotherapy is in its developmental infancy. Evidence thus far suggests that forgiveness has a definite impact on clients' individual and relational well being, yet the literature displays gaps in social work research, qualitative research, quantitative research, and generally research investigating the process of forgiveness in any sense. The purpose of this qualitative "grounded theory" field study was to explore psychotherapists' perceptions of forgiveness as it relates to psychotherapy. Fourteen psychotherapists from various out-patient counseling agencies participated. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with each participant in three rounds of data collection. Common themes from each round were identified. The constant comparative method was used to develop the final working hypotheses which eventually became "grounded theory". Spiritual orientation was unanimously identified by psychotherapists as having an impact on their perceptions of forgiveness. Psychotherapists from four spiritual perspectives participated: Unitarian, Jewish, self spirituality with a Christian foundation and traditional Christian orientation. Results indicate there are differences and similarities among psychotherapists of various spiritual orientations. There were similar perspectives regarding definition and agreement that forgiveness is an important process in psychotherapy that results in many benefits for the clients. Examining differences among spiritual orientations resulted in the discovery of a spiritual bias to which all psychotherapists agreed. Psychotherapists from traditional Christian orientation were more likely to use the word "forgiveness" in psychotherapy than those from other perspectives. Psychotherapists identified the connection of forgiveness to Judeo-Christian values as their reason for avoiding the word even though they were facilitating the forgiveness process with clients. This also was offered as the explanation for the paucity in the professional literature. Implications of these findings include recommendations for practice and research. The importance of the forgiveness process in psychotherapy was confirmed. Various components of the forgiveness process are outlined and the practitioner is alerted to possible spiritual bias. Additional research is needed to confirm these findings and to further explore the role of forgiveness in social work practice.