Forgiveness Visualization: Using metaphors and guided imagery can be helpful when working with kids and teens on the idea of forgiveness. You can start by exploring what comes to mind when thinking about forgiveness and what forgiveness means to them. Then it can be useful to talk with the client about the importance of acknowledging and honoring their feelings in the process of forgiving. To illustrate, invite the client to visualize a balloon:
Ask them to think about the feelings — anger, sadness, hurt. Then ask them to blow all of those feelings into the pretend balloon. Tell them that the balloon is tied to them by an imaginary string. When they are ready to let go of the feelings, hand over pretend scissors to cut the string and release the feelings.
Ask them to imagine the balloon sailing high into the sky.
When ready, imagine that the balloon gently pops, spreading a dusting of love and compassion(e.g. forgiveness) to both people.
Explain that it may take more than once and they can practice the visualization as much as they would like!
Sample Progress Note: The focus of the session was to (tailor based on tx plan). The therapist engaged the Ct. in a visualization on forgiveness to help the Ct. with building healthy strong relationships. The Ct was (engaged/not engaged) in the activity.
Adult Strategy of the Week:
Self-Forgiveness Letter: Offering forgiveness to oneself can be a meaningful way to build a stronger sense of self. The act of writing a letter of self-forgiveness can also be an act of self-expression and self-compassion/love as well as contribute to a feeling of wellbeing. There is a helpful four stage approach to a self-forgiveness letter that clients can evolve to align with the letter that may be meaningful for them to write; see link below for more descriptions of each step, again, that the client can adapt as it fits for them.
Sample Progress Note: The focus of this session was… The therapist explore the idea of forgiveness and supported the client with beginning to write a self-forgiveness letter. Client reported that a self-forgiveness letter (seems helpful/seems challenging/etc), and they explored when, where, and how they may want to begin writing.
Modality Strategy of the Week:
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: ACT metaphors help to connect with the myriad of life experiences in a new way and bring experiential language to these experiences. Utilizing metaphors about forgiveness can support clients in fostering awareness, acceptance, and psychological flexibility around the idea and act of forgiving.
The Unforgiveness Hook Metaphor:
Being in unforgiveness is like being on a giant hook.
Next to you on the hook is the person who has hurt you.
The hook is extremely painful.
Wherever you go, so does the hook and so does the offender.
The only way you get off the hook, is if you allow the offender off first.
The cost of not allowing the offender off the hook is, perhaps, a lifetime of unhappiness.
Source: Stoddard, J. A., & Afari, N. (2014). The Big Book of ACT Metaphors: a practitioner’s guide to experiential exercises and metaphors in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. new harbinger publications.
Sample Progress Note: The focus of this session was to… The therapist lead the client in an ACT metaphor exercise around forgiveness. The client reflected that they found this exercise to be (helpful/thought-provoking/challenging/relieving).
Mindfulness/Meditation of the Week:
Meditating on Forgiveness: Often it can be helpful and facilitative to imagine, visualize, and/or meditate on the notion of forgiving someone/ourselves, to open our mind and body to the act of doing so. This guided meditation enables clients to explore the idea of forgiveness in a safe way and in a way that feels aligned with them.
Now, we’ll begin practicing a guided forgiveness meditation. Remember it’s a practice. It’s best not to force yourself to forgive that which you do not feel ready or safe to forgive at this time. Simply acknowledge whatever comes up for you with a non-judgmental attitude, as much as you can. Let whatever emotions arise come and go. You can always come back to the breath or the feel of the body sitting as an anchor. Go at your own pace.
Begin settling into a comfortable seated posture, on a chair or a cushion. Becoming aware of the fact that you are breathing. Becoming aware of the movement of the breath, as it comes into your body and as it leaves your body. Not manipulating the breath or controlling it but simply being aware of how it feels.
Now, when you are ready, expanding your awareness beyond the breath to include the entire body. Simply noticing sensation in the body internally or externally. Bringing your attention now to the thoughts as they come and go. Seeing each thought as it comes up in the mind as a thought, a passing event. And, when you are ready bringing the awareness to emotions that arise in the body and mind. Perhaps frustration, restlessness, peacefulness, sadness, joy, or fear.
Now, simply noticing how the body, mind, and heart are feeling right now. Returning to the body breathing. Noticing where you feel the breath moving in and out of the body. Letting the awareness ride the waves of the breath. Now, beginning to take a gentle journey of awareness through the body. Inviting the possibility of letting go and relaxing the body. Allowing a kind attention to sweep through the body. Letting go, letting be. Allowing whatever is present to be just as it is. (pause)
Now, bringing to mind someone whom you have harmed either intentionally or unintentionally. Bringing to mind someone where it feels unresolved or burdensome for you. Seeing who comes to mind, taking a few moments to visualize or imagine this person, noticing the details of their appearance.
And when you are ready, gently say this person’s name to yourself and ask forgiveness for how you have harmed this person intentionally or unintentionally. Saying, this persons Name and then, saying forgive me, forgive me… forgive me for any actions I did, whether intentional or unintentional, that caused you harm… Continue with or without the name, as if speaking to the person directly. Trusting yourself to ask for forgiveness in a way that feels right for you, without getting lost in the content of the story of whatever may have happened.
Take your time, Repeat a few times at your own pace, may I be forgiven. What’s most important are not the words but the ‘felt sense’, as much as you can, letting it come from your heart, with the intention for healing; asking for and opening to receiving forgiveness. (pause) Taking a few moments to transition, to let go of the images or thoughts. Noticing how you are feeling now. Bring the awareness to the body, the breath. Taking a few easy, deep breaths. (pause)
Now, bringing to mind someone who has caused you harm, intentionally or unintentionally. Noticing the details of the person’s appearance, noticing what feelings arise for you as you bring the person to mind. When you are ready, begin to offer that person forgiveness. Saying to the person in your own mind, using that person’s name, I forgive you. I forgive you for the ways you have harmed me, intentionally or unintentionally. I forgive you, I forgive you.
Repeat at your own pace a few more times. As before, trusting yourself to forgive in a way that feels right for you, without getting lost in the content of the story of whatever may have happened. (pause) Now, letting go of the images or thoughts. Noticing how you are feeling. Bringing the awareness back to the breath, the body. Taking a few easy deep breaths. (pause)
Now, imagining or visualizing yourself. Noticing the details your appearance. Bringing to mind anyone or any situation for which you wish to forgive yourself for ways you have harmed yourself. When you are ready, using your own name, say I forgive you, I forgive you. May I forgive myself. Again, trusting yourself to forgive in a way that feels right for you. (pause) When you are ready, letting go of the images or thoughts. Noticing how you are feeling. Bringing your awareness back to the body, to the breath. Taking a few easy, deep breaths.
Now, taking a few more moments to offer gratitude to yourself for taking this time for yourself . For taking care of your own heart, for lightening the burdens, the hurts you have accumulated in your live. Remembering, that this is a practice of letting go and moving in the direction of more peace, happiness and freedom. Breathing in stillness for as long as you wish, and when you are ready, gently open your eyes and slowly returning to the present, to this moment, this place, to resume your day.
Sample Progress Note: The focus of the session was to (tailor based on tx plan). The therapist led the client in a guided meditation around forgiveness. The client that they found this mindfulness activity to be (helpful/thought-provoking/boring/calming).
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