Trauma Treatment Doesn’t Require Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not mandatory for trauma treatment because the process of healing from trauma is highly individualized. Every person’s path to recovery is shaped by their own unique experiences, psychological makeup, and coping mechanisms. What is helpful for one person’s healing may not be effective, or even necessary, for another.

The focus of trauma treatment is on addressing and removing the psychological impacts of trauma, such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms. This process involves helping individuals understand, process, and integrate their traumatic experiences to reduce their long-lasting impact. Therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and other forms of psychotherapy can be very effective in this regard, and they do not necessarily require forgiveness as a part of the healing journey.

Insisting on forgiveness is wrong and can sometimes lead to re-traumatization. This happens when survivors feel that their feelings and experiences are being invalidated, or that they are being pressured into reconciliation or a state of forgiveness they are not ready for or do not desire. In some cases, mandating forgiveness might inadvertently shift focus from the perpetrator’s responsibility to the victim’s response, which can lead to victim-blaming dynamics.  This can cause feelings of guilt or shame in the survivor which is inappropriate.

Healing from trauma often involves regaining a sense of control and empowerment. Imposing the act of forgiveness can undermine this process by taking away the survivor’s autonomy in deciding how to deal with their feelings and the individuals who have harmed them.

Forgiveness can be a valuable and healing step for some, it is not necessary for  the journey of recovering from trauma. The primary aim of trauma therapy is to support survivors in their personal healing process.  This means that therapy should be customized for each situation and that forgiveness may not be the a focus.

Here are some other specific reasons for eliminating forgiveness from your healing process:

Forgiveness May Trivialize the Trauma

 Being told to forgive, regardless of the harm done, can send a message that your feelings and experiences aren’t valid. It can make survivors feel their pain and anger are less important than forgiving their perpetrator. Accepting and validating a survivor’s experience is crucial for their sense of safety and recovery.

Shifts Focus to the Perpetrator

The notion “forgiveness is for you, not them” doesn’t necessarily apply in trauma recovery. Trauma therapy should concentrate on the survivor’s personal healing journey, not their relationship with the abuser. Respect and empathy should guide the approach, whether a survivor chooses to forgive or not.

Perpetuates Victim-Blaming

Emphasizing forgiveness can unintentionally blame the survivor, reinforcing feelings of shame. This can be particularly damaging when survivors already blame themselves for their trauma. Not being able to forgive can wrongly reinforce a sense of self-blame.

Encourages Silence

Forgiveness might lead to less discussion about the trauma, potentially obstructing the healing process. Survivors need to freely talk about their experiences as part of their recovery. Pressuring them to forgive can silence this essential aspect of healing.

Trauma Help in the Denver Area

While forgiveness can aid some survivors, it’s not a universal solution. Importantly, trauma treatment, including methods like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), should be tailored to individual needs. EMDR, for instance, helps in processing traumatic memories without necessarily involving forgiveness. Healing varies, and some survivors find peace and hope without ever forgiving their abusers. Forgiveness, if it happens, often emerges naturally during the therapeutic process.

If you are having trouble with Trauma or PTSD we would be happy to help you find the answers you seek.  Take a look at our Trauma Therapy page for more information. Then we invite you to call us at 720-551-4553 for a free 20-minute phone consultation with a marriage specialist. You can schedule your appointment via phone, or the contact page on our website.  We look forward to hearing from you.

 Self Care Impact Counseling envisions a new age of counseling for adolescents, adults, couples & groups that makes a REAL difference with core values of GROWTH | BALANCE | COMPASSION | INNER HARMONY.