Monthly Archives: August 2016

Forgiveness: What it is and Isn’t



“Resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies.” ~Augustine of Hippo

What It Is . . . and Isn’t

Regardless of whether forgiveness is a worthy virtue, a moral duty or something altogether different, in psychological studies, it happens that forgiveness is closely correlated with increased happiness and improved mental health. It seems that most of us would welcome happiness and better mental health. Right? Well, like everything else, that would depend on the personal cost involved:


  • Am I required to condone the behavior of the perpetrator?
  • Does it mean that the behavior was okay? (I should put up with it, because there was no real injury.)
  • • Must I develop selective amnesia and simply forget all about it . . . or at least pretend to?
  • • Must I pardon this person—allowing him/her to continue causing more damage?
  • • Must I reconcile with this person? Or get back into a relationship, where I’ll get hurt all over again?

NO. The answer is no to all of them.

Forgiveness: it is a voluntary decision to acknowledge the offense, move through the resultant feelings, set aside the resentment, and release the anger, so you may move on with your life. You need not condone, excuse, forget, or reestablish a relationship with the perpetrator.

Pardoning: It is problematic when forgiveness is coupled with, or equated to, pardoning. Freedman and Enright (1996) believe that a person can forgive, yet still expect justice. As they view forgiveness and justice to be in harmony with each other—both inviting and provoking change and growth.

Condoning: Forgiving the perpetrator for his/her action(s) does not mean you stop judging the deed. Freedman and Enright (1996) posit that condoning denies the resentment and the offense, which is likely to exacerbate and complicate the hurt and injury. In contrast to denial, forgiveness vanquishes the resentment with love and compassion.

  • You forgive the person, not the action.
  • Forgiveness allows you to live in the present and leave the past behind.
  • Forgiveness will bring you peace. 

Reconciliation: It is possible to accept, even love a person and still choose not to be in a personal relationship with him or her?

 Aponte states, “Reconciliation is distinct from the moral decision to forgive. The choice to forgive [only] opens the door . . . to reconciliation, if safe, prudent, and right.”

Freedman and Enright (1996) believe forgiveness can take place when the offended gives up feelings of hatred or resentment.

Many people, including clergy members, philosophers, psychotherapists, and psychologists, erroneously believe that full forgiveness requires the victim to accept the perpetrator back into the relationship.

Worksheet Forgiveness Myths:

Read each of the following Myths around Forgiveness. Then choose the one the one that stands out the most for you and answer:  Why you chose the one you did • How  do you identify with the myth.

  1. If I forgive this person, it means that I’m condoning the behavior of the person I’m forgiving.
  2. • If I forgive this person, then my relationship with him/her will certainly improve.
  3. • If I forgive this person, then I won’t be angry about what happened.
  4. • If I forgive, I give up my right to feel hurt, angry, or sad. • I haven’t really forgiven that person when I remember what happened.
  5. • I should only have to forgive once (i.e., once I do it, I’ll never have to think about it again).
  6. • I forgive, not for me, but for the sake of the other person.
  7. • If I forgive this person, I must remain in a relationship with this person

Worksheet: Stages of Forgivenes

Stage One: Identify Perpetrator and Transgression

  1. I know who it was that has affected me negatively.
  2. • I know what specific behavior(s) it was that has been physically, emotionally, or spiritually damaging to me.

Stage Two: Identify, Experience, and Process the Emotions

  • • I have felt the emotions associated with the offensive, damaging behavior. I have found a safe place to process these feelings.
  • • If it was safe to do so, I have spoken to the person regarding the adverse effects I endured as a result of his/her behavior.
  •  If it was not safe to do so, I was able to do it in therapy using an imaginary technique (e.g., role playing, psychodrama, the empty chair, etc.).

Stage Three: Understand the Need for Forgiveness

  • I understand the benefits of forgiveness
  • I have reached a point where I recognize what has transpired, have begun developing compassion for myself, and am now able to see the perpetrator as a human being.

Important Distinction: Many people, including clergy members, philosophers, psychotherapists, and psychologists, erroneously believe that full forgiveness requires the victim to accept the perpetrator back into the relationship. What is actually required of the victim is that (s)he accept the perpetrator back into the human race (i.e., (s)he is no longer stripped of his/her humanity, regardless of whether the victim chooses to reestablish a personal relationship with him/her). As Joan Borysenko states in Guilt Is the Teacher, Love Is the Lesson Forgiveness is not a lack of discrimination whereby we let all the criminals out of prison: it is an attitude that permits us to relate to the pain that led to their errors and recognize their need for love. (1991, p. XXX)

Stage Four: Set Clear Boundaries

  • I have set clear boundaries with the perpetrator:
  •  I understand the need for and my right to protect myself.
  • I feel competent in setting and maintaining these boundaries to keep me physically and emotionally safe.

Stage Five: Integrate the Past and Begin Recreating the Future 

  • I have made an internal choice to forgive and a have willingness to recreate a meaningful life for myself.

Linda Curran 101 Trauma Interventions

How to Relieve Anxiety in Children

How to Relieve Anxiety in Children

by Angela Zaffer, MA, NCC, LPCC   August 8, 2016

With children going back to school after the summer break, stress associated with homework, taking a test and or social relationships, maybe something some parents are thinking about.  This article should help guide parents on how to help their child cope with these overwhelming feelings.

What is Anxiety?  Anxiety  is a thought that causes someone to worry or feel nervous or upset. Stressed out is a word people often use to describe anxiety.  Everyone feels anxious from time to time.  It’s a normal emotion. Many people feel nervous when faced with a problem at school or work, before taking a test or going to the doctor.  But for children with anxiety,  worry and fear are constant and can be overwhelming.  For some it can be disabling and lead to feelings of panic. But with simple interventions, children can learn to manage these feelings.

One in eight children has an anxiety disorder. Parents whose children show symptoms of anxiety want to help but don’t always know what to do or where to turn. This guide can help you make sense of the available treatment options and includes some easy tips you can start using right away.

Recommended Treatments for Children With Anxiety

 Recommended forms of Treatment

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most recommended treatment technique for anxiety in children.
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy, or ACT, uses strategies of acceptance and mindfulness (living in the moment and experiencing things without judgment) as a way to cope with unwanted thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, emphasizes taking responsibility for one’s problems and helps children examine how they deal with conflict and intense negative emotions.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

  • Cognitive therapy examines how negative thoughts, or  Cognitions, contribute to anxiety.
  • Behavior therapy examines how you behave and react in situations that trigger anxiety.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that can be used with children to teach interventions to identify and replace  negative thoughts. In cognitive behavioral therapy, children can learn different ways to calm themselves and learn to worry less.  CBT is effective in children as young as 6.  Most children need between 5 and 20 therapy sessions. Depending on the age of the child, a session typically last about 30 to 55 minutes

According to some studies, CBT is as effective as medication in treating anxiety. Unlike medication, CBT has no physical side effects. CBT does require practicing the interventions taught in each session.   Most counselors will teach the parent the interventions as well.  A parent can be quickly oriented in the last five or ten minutes of each session on what the child worked on learning in the session. Also, having the child teach the parent the interventions is also a good way for the child to remember the interventions taught.

Some Typical CBT Interventions include:

  • What is Anxiety
  • How  Anxiety gets started
  • Physical Symptoms
  • Breathing techniques
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Using logic to fight worry thoughts
  • Thought stopping
  • Redirecting thoughts-Distraction

Interventions to Use at Home

  •  Help the child to recognize the physical symptoms of anxiety. A few physical symptoms of anxiety are—upset stomach, racing heart, out of breath, crying, sweaty hands, headache. Sometimes children with anxiety visit the school nurse for these symptoms. Teach your child to  use coping strategies, such as deep breathing when these symptoms occur.
  • Listen and Validate  Let your child know you hear their worries and are empathetic to what that the child is feeling.  Let the child know they can share their worries for one time a day for fifteen minutes.  The late afternoon or early evening is usually in the best time.  After they have shared the worries, the child needs to know you will not discuss their worries again until the next day.  This helps the brain learn to re-wire itself from a worry brain to a non-worry brain.  The brain has to be trained to worry less.
  • Worry Box:  Create a worry container  The child can write down the worries on a piece of paper and put them in a box or other container.  If they are worrying at school, a worry folder made to hold these  worry notes works really well. The child can also write positive notes and coping skills  on the front outside of the worry folder.
  • Breathing Techniques:  Deep breathing can help decrease the stress response in the body.  Take a deep breathe with your child and breath the air out slowly.  Pretend you are breathing out through a straw.  You can also have the child blow the air out slowly on their hand.
  • Excercise:  Go for a walk together.  Your child can use this time to discuss what they are worrying about during the walk.  Also, excercise is a great way to get ride of the stress chemicals that build up in the body.
  • Modeling ways to cope with stress:  A child who sees his parents take some deep breaths to calm down may learn to do the same.
  • Should Medication be Used?
  • The  medications that are commonly used to treat anxiety in children are antidepressants. However, because all medications have side effects, medication is rarely prescribed as a first treatment for anxiety. Medication is most often used when other interventions have not been successful, or as a complement to therapy.Depending on your child’s level of anxiety,  professional counseling may be needed to find the treatment and coping strategies that work best for your child and your family.


Your doctor or counselor may recommend one or a combination of treatments.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs):  These are commonly known as second generation antidepressants.

Another antidepressant that is commonly used is bupropion. Bupropion ,or Wellbutrin, is a third type of antidepressant which works differently than either SSRIs or SNRIs. Bupropion affects the dopamine neurotransmitters whereas SSRIs affect serotonin nerotransmitters.

SSRIs, SNRIs, and Bupropion are popular because they do not cause as many side effects as older classes of antidepressants, and seem to help a broader group of depressive and anxiety disorders. These medications are thought to work by targeting chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. These chemicals affect mood and emotion. Experts have traditionally thought that they restore a chemical imbalance.   But new research suggests that stress may actually destroy the connections between nerve cells — and even the cells themselves. They believe that antidepressants work by restoring these nerve pathways.  These medications take 4 to 6 weeks to reach their full effectiveness. Anyone taking an antidepressant should be closely monitored, especially children, in the first few weeks.

Medication may allow your child to participate in activities he or she would otherwise avoid. Medication can help get symptoms under control while a child is learning new coping techniques in therapy.  Ask your child’s doctor about the risks and benefits of any suggested medication. Also ask about follow-up appointments and medication monitoring.

Like other medical conditions, anxiety disorders tend to be chronic unless properly treated. Most kids find that they need professional guidance to successfully manage and overcome their anxiety.

Written by Angela Zaffer MA, NCC, LPCC

Angela Zaffer is a nationaly certified (NBCC) and Licensed Professional Clincal Mental Health Counselor in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.  She specializes in treating anxiety disorders in children.  Angela also treats children, teenagers and adults with depression, low self esteem, grief and trauma/PTSD.  She is the CEO and Clinical Director of Counseling Solutions.  Angela can be contacted at:


Counseling Solutions: Counseling and Psychotherapy for Children, Teenagers and Adults