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Intervention Studies on Forgiveness: A Meta-Analysis

Summarized by Charles Nolan


 Baskin, T.W., & Enright, R.D. (2004). Intervention studies on forgiveness:  A meta-analysis. Journal of Counseling & Development, 82(1), 79-90.



Baskin and Enright


In this meta-analysis, 9 published studies (N=330) that investigated the efficacy of forgiveness interventions within counseling were examined. After a review of theories of forgiveness, it was discovered that the studies could logically be grouped into three categories: decision-based, process-based group, and process-based individual interventions. When compared with control groups, for measures of forgiveness and other emotional health measures, the decision-based interventions showed no effect, the process-based group interventions showed significant effects, and the process-based individual interventions showed large effects. Consequently, effectiveness has been shown for use of forgiveness in clinical and other settings.



Key Terms/Concepts:

Forgiveness – the willful giving up of resentment in the face of another’s (or others’) considerable injustice and responding with beneficence to the offender even though that offender has no right to the forgiver’s moral goodness.  It is an act freely chosen by the forgiver.  It is distinguished from condoning and excusing, reconciling, and forgetting.

Model One  -  there are 4 phases: uncovering, decision, work, and deepening

Uncovering – explore the injustice, assess anger, and understand ways in which harboring that anger may be clinically compromising the person.

Decision Phase – The uncovering phase leads into this phase.  The forgiver explores forgiveness and commits to forgiveness

Work Phase – there are 4 units that relate to the offender and how the offender is viewed

Deepening Phase – units that include finding meaning in what was suffered, finding support for forgiveness and sometimes finding new purposes in life.

Model Two – This model has 9 components and is presented as a way of fostering both cognitive and affective empathy.

Model Three – was designed to elicit forgiveness in a 1-hour session by focusing on empathically on the offender and writing letters (not sent) in which feelings were expressed to the offender.

Process based – Model 1 and 2

Decision based – Model 3


Main Statistics :

The studies that were in the Decision based group had low scores of effectiveness.

95% Confidence Interval

Decision-Forgiveness Mean Effect Size (MES) – 0

Process (Group)- Forgiveness MES - .8 (range .4 – 1.25)

Process (Individual) – Forgiveness MES – 1.65 (range .65 – 2.65)

Decision-Emotional Health MES – 0

Process (Group)- Emotional Health MES - .6 (range .27 – .9)

Process (Individual) – Emotional Health MES – 1.41 (range .65 – 2.18)


Key Findings:

-          Greater effectiveness for the process models of forgiveness.

-          The more time and energy required by clients and counselor the more likely the effectiveness

-          The empirical evidence currently does not endorse the predominantly cognitive decision-based interventions