Helping Your Clients Find Forgiveness

Letting go of past hurts is a critical skill in any relationship, and for couples, it is critical if the relationship is going to continue to thrive and flourish. Forgiveness is a conscious decision to release feelings of resentment, and it is an important tool in processing hurt and moving forward. Even though your clients may find forgiveness difficult, it is an essential element in healthy relationships. Forgiveness may be one of the most important ways to keep a relationship strong. In fact, the capacity to seek and offer forgiveness is one of the most significant factors contributing to marital satisfaction and a lifetime of romantic love.

Forgiveness is more difficult if your client’s partner is not remorseful, but they will still find value in forgiveness. Some transgressions are so damaging relationships cannot survive, yet forgiveness can still play a role – even if divorce is inevitable. Forgiveness is not the same as forgetting what happened, condoning bad behavior, giving up claims to a fair settlement, or reconciliation. First and foremost, it will help your client heal. Here are some scenarios I observed in my work with couples (names have been changed).

  • Lisa scheduled a session because she was having difficulty moving on and forgiving her husband Jack for racking up gambling debts. Jack was in treatment for his gambling problem, but Lisa simply could not forgive him for damaging their finances.
  • Lucy and Phil came to see me because Lucy had a short-term affair with another man. Phil was angry and their relationship deteriorated because he could not let go of the pain of betrayal and forgive her.
  • Chris realized her partner was lying to her about issues – big and small. She believed trust was damaged beyond repair and that breaking up was the only solution.

Being ‘unforgiving’ takes a physical and mental toll. Holding onto old hurts, disappointments, annoyances, betrayals, insensitivity, and anger wastes your clients’ time and energy. Nursing the hurt can eventually turn into resentment, hatred, contempt, and bitterness.

We know it’s important to practice forgiveness. Researchers at Johns Hopkins report practicing forgiveness can reduce the risk of heart attack, lower cholesterol levels, improve sleep, reduce pain, lower blood pressure, as well as decrease levels of anxiety, depression, and stress.

As I demonstrated with my clients, you too can teach your clients various techniques that can help them foster forgiveness. Teach clients to:

  • be open and receptive to forgiveness.
  • make a conscious decision to forgive.
  • think of a calming place when they are distressed about the situation.
  • do something to distract themselves when flashbacks of the betrayal trigger negative thoughts and upsetting emotions.
  • refrain from constantly bringing up the situation with their partner or using it as ammunition in an argument.
  • accept they may never know the reason for the hurtful behavior.
  • avoid seeking revenge or retribution.
  • remember that forgiveness does not mean they condone hurtful behavior.
  • be patient with themselves as the forgiveness process can take time.

If your client caused hurt or betrayed their partner, they can begin to rebuild trust by asking for forgiveness. They can:

  • show true remorse for the pain they caused.
  • make a commitment to avoid repeating hurtful behavior.
  • accept the consequences of the action that created the hurt.
  • be open to making amends.
  • make a heartfelt verbal apology.
  • create an action plan to make things right.
  • be patient with their partner.

Here is an exercise you can do with your clients in session.

  1. Ask your client to write down three ways distressing emotions have impacted (or are still impacting) their marriage.2. Explore ways they can process these emotions, such as journaling, practicing yoga, improving their physical health, and expressing thoughts, feelings, desires, and wishes in a respectful way. Resentment increases when people bury upsetting feelings.
  2. Discuss small steps they can take to repair the relationship and let go of grudges.4. Identify ways they can accept responsibility for their part. Perhaps they owe their partner an apology as well.
  3. Challenge beliefs and self-defeating thoughts about holding on to painful feelings. Processing what happened can release resentment.
  4. Focus on accepting that people do the best they can (this does not mean condoning others’ hurtful actions).
  5. Help them practice forgiveness by actively thinking like a forgiving person, letting go of grudges, and stop playing the role of victim. offers many worksheets for couples to help your clients included with your Library of over 2,500 tools. We also offer a Room in our Virtual Counseling Rooms software where couples can practice forgiveness.

Click here for two free worksheets on Practicing Forgiveness and Creating a Forgiveness Ritual.

Angie Doel is the head writer at Between Sessions Resources and she has published several therapeutic assignment workbooks. She practiced as a psychotherapist and life coach for several years prior to her writing career.

Using Problem-Solving Techniques in Therapy

I’ve read dozens of books about CBT techniques, but I rarely see a mention of problem-solving techniques. You could argue that therapy, counseling, or coaching is itself a problem-solving process, but I believe teaching specific problem-solving techniques can be beneficial for many of our clients because it stimulates executive functioning and can lead to a higher degree of self-efficacy.

Many therapists with a neuroscience bent (including me) see problems like anxiety and depression as a battle between the emotional part of the brain (limbic system) and the thinking part of the brain (the neocortex). It’s not really a fair fight. The emotional part of the brain responds to thoughts or external events 10 times faster than the thinking part of the brain, and as I’m sure you’ve seen time and time again, emotions can hijack the thinking part of the brain, muting the rational thought and decision-making ability of our clients. Teaching clients problem-solving techniques may stimulate executive functioning in the following ways:

  • Problem-solving techniques normalize a situation, making it seem less overwhelming.

  • Problem-solving techniques offer new ways of thinking.

  • Practicing problem-solving techniques may reduce impulsive tendencies.

  • Practicing problem-solving techniques may help clients with positive decision-making.

  • Problem-solving techniques may lead to more solution-focused thinking.

Here are a few problem-solving techniques that can be used with clients.

Brainstorming is an active process that involves generating many ideas or solutions to a problem in a short amount of time. Clients are presented with many open-ended questions and are asked to consider alternatives and possibilities as they expand outside their comfort zone. It can be done individually, in groups, aloud, on paper, and within a counseling session. The idea is to generate diverse perspectives about a given topic while being open, creative, and flexible. You may suggest clients brainstorm during journal writing, doodling, drawing, or while walking. These types of activities help stimulate right brain functions such as divergent thinking and creativity.

Mind-mapping is a visual representation of ideas and concepts related to a problem. It helps clients see the connections between different ideas to organize their thoughts, allowing them to work more efficiently with both sides of their brain. With this technique, words and illustrations complement and combine on a mind map. Clients put everything on a blank canvas: problems, resources, beliefs, values, and so on. By exploring the relationships among them, the solution may quickly emerge. Mind-mapping allows clients to fully discover their potential, understand solutions, and overcome obstacles in a creative way. You may suggest online sites like,, or

SWOT Analysis is a technique used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of a situation. This tool enables a client to appraise the positive and negative attributes regarding a particular goal or problem and how external factors impact them. The client is guided to make rational choices based on this analysis. Download the free Between Sessions SWOT worksheet at the end of the blog!

Decision matrix is a tool used to evaluate and compare different options or solutions, allowing individuals to choose the best option based on a set of criteria. The client lists two or more alternatives they are considering along with the pros and cons of each. Listing all the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative ensures they will not overlook relevant information. Next, they assign importance ratings to each pro and con factor. After listing the pros and cons of each alternative and assigning importance ratings, it is helpful to analyze this information. This can lead to observations and insights that allow the client to become clearer about the correct course of action.

Root cause analysis (RCA) is a method of identifying the underlying causes of a problem. By identifying the root cause, clients can develop a solution that addresses the problem at its source. RCA goes beyond simple cause and effect to identify and isolate concerns and failure points.  There are five steps in an RCA:

Define the problem. Analyze what is happening and identify the precise symptoms to form a problem statement.

Gather data. Before identifying the underlying problems, collect and evaluate all aspects of the situation.

Identify causal factors. Look for as many causal factors as possible that could have led to the problem.

Determine the root cause(s). Discover the root causes of each causal factor.

Recommend and implement solutions. Recommend solutions and preventive actions to ensure the problem does not happen again. Develop a timeline and plan for implementing the solution.

The Six Hats Method identifies different perspectives and emotions, allowing clients to focus on the task at hand. The Six Hats Method, developed by Dr. Edward de Bono, separates thinking into six different “hats” or modes of thinking. This helps clients approach problem-solving in a more organized, focused, and efficient way. The six hats are:

White Hat – represents objective thinking and the gathering of information, facts, and data related to the problem.

Red Hat – represents emotions and intuition.

Black Hat – represents critical thinking and the identification of potential problems, potential flaws, and risks.

Yellow Hat – represents positive thinking and the identification of different options and potential solutions.

Green Hat – represents creative thinking and the generation of new ideas and unconventional solutions to the problem.

Blue Hat – represents the overall thinking process and the management of the problem-solving process, goals, and objectives, and coordinates the use of the other hats.

When using this technique, individuals or groups are encouraged to act as if they are wearing each hat, and to focus on the thinking associated with that hat. This can help clients consider different perspectives, generate new ideas, and make more informed choices

The SCAMPER technique encourages people to use their imagination and creativity to generate new ideas. It stands for:

Substitute – Can we change this?

Combine – What can we combine?

Adjust – How can we make adjustment?

Modify – Can we modify it?

Put to other uses – Can it be used for something else?

Eliminate – Is there a reason we should eliminate it?

Reverse – Can we change the order? offers many worksheets to aid your clients in learning problem-solving included with your Library of over 2,500 tools. We also offer a Room in our Virtual Counseling Rooms software where clients can learn and practice problem-solving techniques.

Click here for free worksheets on the SWOT Analysis and the SCAMPER technique.

Recognizing Teen Depression: What Parents Can Do

Parenting teens can be difficult, and it’s important for parents to be aware of the signs and symptoms of depression in their children. Teen depression is a serious mental health issue that can have devastating consequences if left untreated. It’s important for parents to look for signs of depression in their teens and provide them with the appropriate support. In this blog post, we will discuss the signs of teen depression, how to recognize them, and what parents can do to help their children. We will also discuss the benefits of therapy in helping teens with depression.

Warning Signs of Teen Depression

Teen depression can be difficult for parents to recognize, especially because teens may not display outward signs of distress. But there are several signs that can indicate your teen may be struggling with depression.

Common signs of teen depression include:

  • a persistent feeling of sadness

  • loss of interest in activities that used to bring joy

  • fatigue and loss of energy

  • appetite changes

  • trouble sleeping or sleeping too much

  • difficulty concentrating

  • frequent physical complaints such as headaches and stomachaches

  • reckless behavior

  • withdrawal from friends and family

  • thoughts of death or suicide


If you notice any of these signs in your teen, it is important to reach out for help.

One option is to try psychotherapy, which can provide a safe space for teens to explore their feelings and learn how to better manage them. Many therapists use evidence-based treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which includes worksheets and exercises that can help teens manage their thoughts and behavior. Psychotherapy can also help teens build the skills they need to cope with stress and build healthy relationships.

Why Teens May be Reluctant to Seek Help

Many teens may not want to admit they are struggling with depression, as they may be ashamed or think they can handle it on their own. They may also be reluctant to ask for help because they are worried about being judged, feeling embarrassed, or misunderstood. Additionally, the idea of talking to a therapist can be intimidating. For example, they may feel anxious about talking about their thoughts and feelings in a therapy session or filling out worksheets. It’s understandable that teens may be apprehensive about seeking help, and it’s important that parents remain understanding and supportive throughout the process.

How Parents Can Encourage Their Teens to Seek Help

It can be difficult for parents to know how to help. Fortunately, there are several ways parents can encourage their teens to seek help.

The first step is to start a conversation with your teen. Ask them how they are feeling and try to be understanding and non-judgmental. Reassure them it’s ok to ask for help and that talking to someone can help them feel better.

Encourage your teen to keep a mood journal, where they can write down how they feel each day and any changes they notice. Keeping track of this information can be helpful when working with mental health professionals.

Make sure your teen knows you are there for them and willing to help. Offer to accompany them to therapy appointments, provide them with books or worksheets on self-care, or even just talk with them when they need it. It’s important to create a safe space in which your teen can talk openly about their emotions.

Above all, remind your teen they are not alone. Everyone experiences moments of depression or sadness, and no one should feel ashamed or embarrassed to reach out for help.

When to Seek Professional Help

When it comes to teen depression, it’s important to know when to seek professional help. If your teen is displaying any of the warning signs of depression such as low mood, fatigue, changes in eating or sleeping patterns, isolation, or poor school performance, it may be time to seek help. It’s important for parents to recognize when their child’s symptoms go beyond typical teenage angst and becomes more serious.

It may be helpful to speak with your teen’s doctor, or your own doctor or mental health provider if you have concerns about your teen’s mental health. The doctor can evaluate the symptoms and provide referrals to a mental health professional if necessary.

If you think that your teen is in crisis or in danger of harming themselves or others, it is important to seek help immediately. You can call 911 for emergency services or go to the nearest hospital emergency room for help. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) for 24/7 assistance.

There is no need to wait until the symptoms become severe before seeking help. Professional help can make all the difference in helping your teen manage their depression. By providing support and encouragement, you can help your teen work through this difficult time and build healthier coping skills.

This Week’s Free Resource

Click here to get the worksheet Creating a Support Map, designed to help teens understand how to seek help from the people around them.