Journal of Women's Health Care

Journal of Women's Health Care
Open Access

ISSN: 2167-0420



The Use of Forgiveness Therapy with Female Survivors of Abuse

Robert D Enright and Suzanne Freedman

Three intervention studies focusing on the psychology of forgiveness for women who have been abused are reviewed. All three incorporated the process model of forgiveness, used randomized assignment to experimental and control groups, and examined effectiveness through pre-test, post-test, and follow-up assessments. All three were conducted by different interveners. Results show that forgiveness is an effective way of restoring psychological health following abuse as well as increasing forgiveness toward the offender. For example, in Freedman and Enright’s study with incest survivors, the experimental group showed a significantly greater reduction in anxiety, state anxiety, trait anxiety, and depression, and a greater increase in forgiving the perpetrator, and in hope. Similar results were found in Reed and Enright’s study with women who experienced spousal emotional abuse. Participants who received Forgiveness Therapy, compared to an alternative therapy, demonstrated a statistically significantly greater increase in forgiving the former abusive partner, in self-esteem, in environmental mastery (everyday decisions), and in finding meaning in suffering (moral decisions), and a statistically significantly greater reduction in trait anxiety, in depression, and in post-traumatic stress symptoms. Lee and Enright’s study with women with fibromyalgia, who experienced parental abuse in childhood, additionally shows that forgiveness, can help alleviate physical symptoms as well as psychological symptoms. Specifically, the forgiveness intervention participants had greater improvements in forgiveness and overall fibromyalgia health from pretest to the post-test, and in forgiveness and state anger from the pretest to the follow-up test than the fibromyalgia health intervention participants.