Archive for September, 2020

New Manual for Mental Health Professionals Recommends Use of Enright Forgiveness Therapy

A hot-off-the-press instructional manual recommends that mental health professionals adopt and employ the Enright Process Model of Forgiveness when counseling individuals who profess Pentecostal and Charismatic Christian beliefs. Those two movements together make up about 27% of all Christians and more than 584 million people worldwide, according to the Pew Research Center.

The new book, Counseling and Psychotherapy with Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians, was written by Geoffrey Sutton, a licensed psychologist and prolific author who has experience providing services to Christians from many traditions. Born in London, England, Sutton is a Professor of Psychology (Emeritus) at Evangel University in Springfield, MO, who has 14 books available on amazon.com.

“Clinicians would be advised to learn a specific approach such as the Enright Model. . .” Sutton recommends in his book. “Both of the major forgiveness intervention programs (Enright and REACH) are supported by scientific evidence of effectiveness.”

Sutton’s endorsement of the Enright Model of Forgiveness is actually a complete turnaround from his earlier positions on Christian counseling. For example, Sutton wrote a paper for the Christian Association for Psychological Studies that said a “well -articulated, comprehensive, and integrated approach to Christian counseling does not exist today.” That was at the organization’s 2015 annual meeting.

In his latest book, Sutton begins by providing an overview of religion, spirituality, and Christianity before focusing on the Pentecostal-Charismatic Christian movement that he traces back to the early 1900s. He then provides six chapters on patient assessment, counseling techniques, and interventions with special emphasis on the forgiveness interventions he now embraces because he believes they are adequately supported by empirical evidence.

“For committed Christians, spiritual identity is a substantial component of the self,” Sutton writes. “The purpose of this book is to help mental health professionals increase their cultural competence to better serve Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians who are congregants in the world’s fastest-growing religious movement.”  

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Can being angry have positive consequences?

Yes, if the anger is short-lived and is a call to action to right a wrong.  My worry, as spelled out in the book, Forgiveness Therapy, with Dr. Fitzgibbons, is anger that becomes prolonged (months or years) and intense.  This can lead to a host of psychological compromises.  We need to make the distinction between healthy and unhealthy anger.

For additional information, see How do I know if my anger is healthy or unhealthy?

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You probably have heard the expression, “No pain….no gain.”  I sometimes wonder if forgiving, which reduces pain, gets in the way of growth.

The expression “no pain….no gain” does not imply that one must be in constant pain to grow as a person.  In weightlifting, for example, the pain is temporary for more long-term growth of muscles and strength.  I think it is similar for a person’s psychology.  The pain from unjust treatment is our forgiveness-gym as we develop our forgiveness muscles.  The point, as it is in weightlifting, is to stop the pain so that one can grow.  So, we do grow as we go though the pain.  We also grow in character as we forgive. In other words, pain, working through pain, and finding relief from the pain all work together to help a person grow in virtue and character.

For additional information, see Bearing the Pain.

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What is the most difficult unit of your 20 forgiveness units?

Research has shown that the initial decision to forgive is the hardest because it includes change and change can be a challenge.  By change I mean this:  The forgiver now has to start a journey, one that may not be familiar for the one who just made the decision to forgive.  Those who decide to forgive know that they are committing to some hard psychological work.  The decision, while difficult, involves courage.

For additional information, see The Enright 20 Step Forgiveness Process.

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I sometimes hear that a lack of forgiveness can have physical ramifications.  What is the most common health issue that you see in people who have been treated very unjustly and yet will not forgive?

The most common health issue that I see is fatigue.  It takes a lot of energy to keep resentment in the heart and to keep fueling that resentment by replaying in the mind what happened.  Forgiving can reduce the resentment, reduce the rumination, and increase energy.13-29

For additional information, see Why Forgive?

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