Forgiveness is a topic I frequently research and discuss, not only for my professional life as a therapist, but especially for my personal life as a woman who loves Jesus. I have been greatly forgiven, and it is important to me that I extend grace and forgiveness to people around me. Throughout my journey so far, I have been challenged to think of forgiveness differently. Here are some things I have come to believe about forgiveness:

  • The forgiving person can feel just as relieved as (if not, more than) the forgiven person.
  • Forgiveness dismisses a debt (and relieves you of the responsibility to keep tabs on all of your debtors).
  • You can forgive even if the offender has never apologized, earned your pardon, or asked for your forgiveness. In fact, forgiveness is not conditional at all.
  • Forgiveness is supernatural and miraculous. I believe that forgiveness is an extension of God’a grace; sometimes forgiveness is more about yielding to Him than turning toward the person you want (and especially when we don’t want) to forgive.
  • Forgiving someone does not make you a doormat. In fact, forgiveness is a healthy expression of power within our relationships.
  • Forgiveness is not forgetting, but letting go in healthy ways can be a step toward freedom.
  • A mistake is not the same as a transgression. 
  • Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. Let’s be honest, we aren’t typically so full of love and grace that we are instinctively driven to forgive.
  • Forgiving does not mean that your feelings don’t matter.
  • Perhaps most importantly, forgiveness does not necessitate reconciliation!

So, how do we forgive? (These 3 steps are a very condensed version of what I discuss with clients. The best way to have an in-depth discussion about these steps or the points above is to contact me or find a trusted person to walk this journey with you. You don’t have to do it alone!)

  1. Label what has happened. Start by labeling it for yourself, but processing the event with a counselor or trusted friend can be very helpful. It is important that you are able to label both the offense and your emotional response as accurately as possible, especially if you may try to share these thoughts with the person who has hurt you. There are pressures everywhere to move on as quickly as possible, but rushing through or skipping this step toward forgiveness usually results in bitterness, resentment, rage, and lack of true forgiveness. Two of the most common reasons we skip this step: we haven’t learned how to label feelings or we don’t believe that our feelings are important or valid. It may be helpful to start by journaling or writing a cathartic letter (don’t send it). This way you can begin to put words to some of the anger and hurt that you have experienced. Authentic emotion is the beginning of authentic forgiveness. But don’t get stuck in the raw emotion…
  2. Choose to forgive. Like I said above, forgiveness is supernatural; it is not our first instinct. Start by being honest with yourself about your willingness to forgive. Are you desperate for the freedom of forgiveness? Still holding onto the anger over the injustice? Refusing to forgive? There is space for all of those perspectives, but you won’t know where you’re headed until you acknowledge where you are in the choosing process. Then using the list of truths above, consider what forgiveness would mean for your situation and how choosing to forgive might change your life. Although forgiveness is a choice, I describe it as a journey more than a one-time life event because our perspective of the offense may change as we gain life experience. Two of the most common reasons people are unforgiving: we don’t value the relationship enough to work toward healing or we’re afraid of becoming weak. As a Christian, I am grateful that the Holy Spirit can extend forgiveness through me even as I feel unwilling or unable to forgive on my own. I once heard Dallas Willard describe that attitude as, “wanting to want what I don’t want yet.” He believed that a willingness to be willing made us malleable in the hands of our Creator, that our hearts can change.
  3. Decide whether reconciliation is possible/healthy. Although sincere reconciliation is ideal, it is possible to forgive a person and not reconcile. In fact, there are situations where reconciliation can be more damaging, especially if it would mean returning to an abusive relationship. This is why periods of structured separation including counseling can be restorative for couples; it offers space and time to heal without feeling pushed into divorce. It is important to slowly and carefully consider the options and wait to reconcile until it is safe and appropriate. Do not use this as an excuse to avoid doing the painful work of healing reconciliation or to control or punish the other person! It would be irresponsible to dismiss reconciliatIon just because it isn’t mandatory. It is possible to reconcile at any point after forgiveness, but true reconciliation cannot happen apart from forgiveness and repentance. It takes one person to forgive, but two people to reconcile.

Do you see what I did there? Forgetting is not a part of this conversation. I believe that we must remember in order to truly forgive. For example, which of these statements of forgiveness sounds more powerful? “I don’t even remember what you did to me, so it’s fine,” or, “It has been a very painful experience and process, but I have decided to extend forgiveness anyway. Let’s talk about boundaries and clarify expectations before we can move forward in relationship together.

You have power in your relationships, especially the power to forgive! Don’t judge your ability to forgive on your ability to forget.

The New Wave of Positive Affirmations

With Super Bowl 49 airing this weekend, you should know that you’re just like professional athletes.

Okay, maybe not entirely. You probably won’t be this weekend’s MVP or perform a miracle on ice, but we all have at least one thing in common: our behaviors are motivated by our thoughts and beliefs. Our beliefs have such an impact on our performance that there are people and businesses ready to sell you tips and locker room speeches!

Affirmations and are short, simple, easy to implement, and don’t cost a thing. Past research shows that using affirmations can infuse hope and goals into our daily lives, enhance our performance, and help us correct our mistakes. New research, however, suggests that there is a more effective way to motivate yourself: Interrogative Self-Talk. This method uses a Q&A technique that you can play out in your mind, on paper, or with someone you trust.

Take a few moments to follow these steps and practice the technique for yourself:

  1. Make a list including goals and negative things you say to yourself:
    • I want to quit smoking.
    • I want to better manage my time.
    • I’ll never be good enough.
    • I’m dumb.
    • I’m fat.
  2. Using the Interrogative Self-Talk method, consider some questions to start a conversation in your mind:
    • Have I been able to resist a cigarette in the past? What might happen if I chose that today? How would my life be different if I quit smoking?
    • When have I most successfully managed my time in the past? Is there someone who can help me with this? Where might I see results first?
    • When do I feel most confident? Who can I ask to help me? What if I simply haven’t tapped into my full potential yet?
    • Have I used my mind to solve a problem in the past? How have I helped myself or others around me? Do I really need to be good at everything?
    • Is this about weight or health? How has defining myself by my weight interfered with my happiness? Are there healthy choices I could make today?
  3. Bonus: You can also create a personal mission statement to set new goals and remind yourself of the person you’d like to become. FranklinCovey offers this free mission statement builder for individuals, families, and teams. A statement like this can be broken down into individual affirmations or offer answers for some of your interrogative questions.

Now that you’ve got some new self-talk, incorporate the questions and answers into your life each day. You can start by reciting them aloud, meditating on them quietly, or sharing them with someone you trust. I have had clients write out some of their ideas and strategically place them around their homes and work spaces. Here are some of their most creative places:

  • In wallets/purses
  • On a car visor
  • A sticky note on the television
  • On (and in!) the refrigerator
  • On the coffee maker
  • In the shower (remember to laminate them first!)

The next time you find yourself in need of a pep talk, consider the Interrogative Self-Talk method. And please remember that counseling can be a wonderful, safe place to practice and process!

The Power to Choose

A long line at the grocery store. A driver who cuts you off. A doctor who keeps you waiting. A kid who pushes every button in the elevator. It requires work, but we can choose to view life’s annoying moments as meaningful opportunities.

How do you think the world might be different if people chose to respond with patience and grace? How would your life be different if you made those choices more often?

Apps to Compliment Your Counseling

Technology has certainly changed the way we interact with things around us. Although those changes are not entirely positive, one way to use technology to boost your mental and emotional wellbeing is by using apps. I’ve compiled a list of apps that I have recommended in my practice or my clients have recommended to others. You can find them in the Google Play Store, but I have summarized them below.


Beck Inventory offers inventories to test for two of the most common concerns: depression and anxiety. You can save the results for future reference or share them with your counselor and physician.

Dbt911 is an app which offers practical skills to manage emotions and stress as they happen. There is also a diary option which can be very helpful in your counseling work.

Deep Sleep with Andrew Johnson offers a variety of free and low-cost apps to help you relax and manage stress.

Depression CBT Self Help Guide is an app which offers depression screening tests, suggestions for how to think more positively, and audio options to help you relax.

Free Mediation – Take a Break is a voice-guided relaxation tool.

MidShift is an app that can help you relax and manage anxiety.

Operation Reach Out is a military suicide prevention app.

Positive Activity Jackpot is an app designed to help users manage depression and increase resilience.

Positive Thinking was created to motivate and inspire its users in their daily lives.

Psych drugs was created to share information about common medications prescribed for mental health concerns. Although nothing is as good as talking to your doctor, this app may help you create a list of questions and concerns to share with your physician.

PTSD Coach is another app designed for our military men and women. The app offers education, assessments, and information about professional care.

Relax and Sleep Well with Glenn Harold offers some free and moderately priced apps on topics such as relaxation for sleep, calming meditations, and even help with public speaking.

Relax Melodies offers free and low-cost apps to help you drift off to a peaceful sleep.

T2 Mood Tracker focuses on six common issues: anxiety, depression, general well-being, head injury, post-traumatic stress, and stress. The tracking system allows you to watch out for patterns and share the information gathered with your counselor and physician.

WhatsMyM3 is an app that helps you to monitor mood and see if you are at risk for common mood concerns such as anxiety and depression. The results can be something helpful to share with your counselor and physician.


I’ve only included Google Play Store options because these are the only apps I have personally viewed. Are there other apps, perhaps offered for Apple products, that you would recommend?


Important Agencies and Contact Information

I wanted to dedicate an entire blog entry to important agencies in our area. These are valuable resources, so keep the phone numbers handy in case you need them in the future. Although these organizations are based in Allegheny County, you can still call them to find similar resources closer to where you live. As always, if you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency, please immediately call 9-1-1 or go to the closest emergency room.

re:solve Crisis Network

Address: 333 North Braddock Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15208

Phone: 1-888-796-8226


A crisis can happen to anyone at any time; re:solve has made its mission to serve people in these critical moments. The organization is known for being available, “any day, any time, for any reason.” I have this number memorized and pass it out like candy. If someone in your life is experiencing a crisis, re:solve could be a wonderful resource for them.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Phone: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)


The NSPL also offers free online chatting for anyone in crisis:


Address: PO Box 2675, Harrisburg, PA 17105

Phone: 1-800-932-0313


Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services is a vital resource for protecting children. You can make anonymous calls to ChildLine 24 hours a day, so there is no reason to wait if you have any suspicion that a child is being neglected or abused. Did you know that if you care for or have regular contact with children you might be required by law to report suspected abuse? To find out whether you are a mandated or permissive reporter, please contact Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services at 1-800-692-7462.

Elder Services

Address: Birmingham Towers, 2100 Wharton Street, Second Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15203

Local Phone:  412-350-6905 or 1-800-344-4319

State Phone: 1-800-490-8505


Allegheny County’s Department of Human Services offers resources for its aging population. This resource offers options for independent living, long-term care, and protection from neglect or abuse.

National Dating Abuse Hotline (loveisrespect)

Phone: 1-866-331-9474

Text: “loveis” to 22522


loveisrespect is a national dating abuse hotline. The website offers definitions of consent, information about abuse, and how to get help. Individuals can call, text, and even chat online with someone ready to offer support.

Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR)

Address: 81 South Nineteenth Street, Pittsburgh, Pa 15203

Phone: 1-866-END-RAPE (1-866-363-7273)


PAAR offers a 24 hour hotline which is free and confidential. In addition to helping individuals in crisis, PAAR also offer resources, information, training, and specific trauma counseling. For more information, take a look at the services listed on the website.

Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 9024, Pittsburgh PA 15224

24 Hour Hotline: 412-687-8005 or 1-877-338-8255 (toll free number)

Non-Emergency Phone: 412-687-8017


WCS Pittsburgh offers a 24/7 hotline as well as resources such as: programs for children and adults of all ages, safety apps, and tips to increase your safety.

National Domestic Violence Hotline

Address: PO Box 161810, Austin, Texas 78716

Phone: 1-800-799-7233


From a 24/7 hotline to resources on firearms, statistics, and legislation, this organization offers it all. Please remember that websites you visit can be tracked.

Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence

and how to get a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order

Phone: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)


Allegheny County:

The following is copied from Allegheny County’s website (link above):

“To obtain a PFA, go to the Allegheny County Family and Juvenile Court facility, 440 Ross Street, Room 3030, between 9 and 11 a.m. weekdays. You will see the judge at 1 p.m. to request the order. The court’s PFA coordinator and legal advocates will be available to assist you. Neighborhood Legal Services Association (NLSA), which provides free legal service, can provide an attorney to represent most plaintiffs (you) at the final PFA hearing approximately one week later, but you must stay after your 1 p.m. hearing to apply for the free lawyer.

When Family division is closed on weekday nights or weekends, an Emergency Protection From Abuse Order is available through Night Court, 660 First Avenue, downtown Pittsburgh (next to the new jail), 412-350-3240. You can also get one from your local District Justice after 11:00 a.m. weekdays.”

National Link Coalition

Phone: 1-856-627-5118


To find a shelter which also accommodates pets:

The Link is a coalition of professionals who see animal abuse as “the tip of the iceberg” and often the first sign of other family and community violence.


Address: 2644 Banksville Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15216

Phone: 866-583-6003


FamilyLinks has a plethora of services to offer: addiction and mental health care, special needs planning, housing for youth at risk of neglect or homelessness, and more.