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J Consult Clin Psychol. 2014 Feb;82(1):154-70. doi: 10.1037/a0035268. Epub 2013 Dec 23.

Efficacy of psychotherapeutic interventions to promote forgiveness: a meta-analysis.

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Department of Psychology, University of Iowa.
Department of Educational Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Department of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University.



This meta-analysis addressed the efficacy of psychotherapeutic interventions to help people forgive others and to examine moderators of treatment effects.


Eligible studies reported quantitative data on forgiveness of a specific hurt following treatment by a professional with an intervention designed explicitly to promote forgiveness. Random effects meta-analyses were conducted using k = 53 posttreatment effect sizes (N = 2,323) and k = 41 follow-up effect sizes (N = 1,716) from a total of 54 published and unpublished research reports.


Participants receiving explicit forgiveness treatments reported significantly greater forgiveness than participants not receiving treatment (Δ+ = 0.56 [0.43, 0.68]) and participants, receiving alternative treatments (Δ+ = 0.45 [0.21, 0.69]). Also, forgiveness treatments resulted in greater changes in depression, anxiety, and hope than no-treatment conditions. Moderators of treatment efficacy included treatment dosage, offense severity, treatment model, and treatment modality. Multimoderator analyses indicated that treatment dosage (i.e., longer interventions) and modality (individual > group) uniquely predicted change in forgiveness compared with no-treatment controls. Compared with alternative treatment conditions, both modality (individual > group) and offense severity were marginally predictive (ps < .10) of treatment effects.


It appears that using theoretically grounded forgiveness interventions is a sound choice for helping clients to deal with past offenses and helping them achieve resolution in the form of forgiveness. Differences between treatment approaches disappeared when controlling for other significant moderators; the advantage for individual interventions was most clearly demonstrated for Enright-model interventions, as there have been no studies of individual interventions using the Worthington model.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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