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The Role of Forgiveness in Adolescents Who Engage in Nonsuicidal Self-Injury

Westers, Nicholas J. PsyD; Rehfuss, Mark PhD; Olson, Lynn PhD; Biron, Denise PsyD

Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease:
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e318257c837
Original Article

Abstract: The present study is an exploratory investigation assessing the role of forgiveness of self and forgiveness of others in adolescent nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI). Participants included a diverse sample of self-injuring adolescents (N = 30). Results indicated that lack of self-forgiveness was associated with engaging in NSSI for specific reasons related to the regulation of emotions and social functioning, namely to get rid of unwanted emotions, to feel something due to feeling numb or empty, and to communicate with others. Lack of self-forgiveness was also associated with greater lifetime frequency of NSSI. No relationship was found between forgiveness of others and NSSI. The implications of these findings are discussed in relation to Dialectical Behavior Therapy for NSSI, traditional forgiveness interventions, and treatment of youth who engage in NSSI.

Author Information

School of Psychology and Counseling, Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA.

Send reprint requests to Nicholas J. Westers, PsyD, Baylor College of Medicine & Texas Children’s Hospital, 6701 Fannin St, Ste 1710, Houston, TX 77030. E-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.