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Articles: Professional Will &

Foundation gives FSU $3.4 million for forgiveness study {Below}

Professional Will

By Hector Y. Adames,  Psy.D., Nayeli Y. Chavez-Dueñas,  Ph.D., Kenneth S. Pope, Ph.D., & Melba J. T. Vasquez, Ph.D.

    All psychotherapists, behavior therapists and other clinicians and counselors need a comprehensive “professional will.” It is a fundamental ethical responsibility and, in many jurisdictions, it is also a legal duty.

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     But, on a basic human level, it is a way to spare our clients and colleagues from the chaos, confusion and stress that can come with an unexpected death or incapacitation, especially when clear information and instruction are not available. Unfortunately, it can happen to any practitioner, at any time and without warning.

          Each clinician is different. They work in a variety of settings and have unique circumstances to consider. No standard form for a professional will does a good job accounting for those differences. Following is a series of questions to guide creating professional will that is comprehensive, practical, useful and tailored to each professionals’ unique circumstances:

    • Who is the executor designated to

          take over if you are suddenly unavail-

        able? What is his or her contact infor-


    • Who will step in as a replacement if

          the designated executor cannot be

          reached or is unable to fulfill his or her


    • Does your executor, and others who

          will be involved, have copies, or

          access to copies, of keys, computer

      passwords, answering machine mes-

          sages and schedule?

    • Will someone have ready access to

          your clients’ charts? Have the inform-

          ed consent aspects of providing this

          access been addressed?

    • What arrangements have been made

          for contacting clients in the event of

          sudden death or incapacity? Have

          plans for possible crisis counseling or

          referrals, should that be necessary and

        desired by clients?

    • Does the executor (and backup execu-

          tor) have instructions for changing the

        outgoing answering machine message

        and email autoreply message.

    • Have colleagues who  need to be

          notified been identified? They should

          include colleagues who are close

          friends, co-authors and co-researchers

        and co-leaders of therapy groups,

          continuing ed courses and so on.

    • Does the executor have the profes-

          sional liability carrier's name and

          contact information?

    • Does the executor have contact infor-

          mation for a skilled and experienced

          attorney who specialized in psycho-

      logical practice? Has a skilled and

          experienced attorney specializing in

          representing psychologists reviewed

          the professional will? Does the execu-

          tor have access to billing records and

          know how you would like that han-

          dled? Some clinicians choose to leave

          instructions that a portion or all the

          pending sums due be forgiven.

    • Does the executor understand how

          expenses, subscriptions, and contracts

          should be handled?

    • Is the professional will consistent with

          a personal will? Unless these are

          reviewed side-by-side, there can be

          unintended conflicts and confusion.

    • Do all relevant people have copies of

          the professional will, including the

          executor and backup executor, attor-

          ney, office mates, secretary, reception-

          ist and family members.

    • Is the professional will reviewed

          every year for possible updates to con-

          tact information and passwords. 


    Please note, this guide is based on "Creating a Professional Will" (pp. 206-213) in Ethics in Psychotherapy and Counseling: A Practical Guide, 6th Edition by Kenneth S. Pope, Melba J. T. Vasquez, Nayeli Y. Chavez-Dueñas, & Hector Y. Adames. © 2021 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


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    Hector Y. Adames, Psy.D., is a full professor and a licensed psychologist in independent practice in Chicago, IL. His scholarship focuses on the role of culture, ethnicity, and race in psychotherapy and assessment. He can be contacted at 

   Nayeli Y. Chavez-Dueñas, Ph.D., is a professor and a licensed psychologist in independent practice in Chicago, IL. She has written in the areas of immigration, culture, race, and ethnicity in psychotherapy, and ethics. She can be reached at

    Kenneth S. Pope, Ph.D., ABPP, a self-employed psychologist, has written on clinical and forensic issues as well as ethics and human rights.

Melba J.T. Vasquez, Ph.D., ABPP, former president of the APA, has written in the areas of ethics, multicultural psychotherapy, psychology of women psychotherapy. She has received awards for distinguished contributions, career service, leadership, advocacy and mentorship. She may be reached at


Foundation gives FSU

$3.4 million for

forgiveness study

 A Florida State University (FSU) eminent scholar has received a $3.4 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation to study the psychology of divine forgiveness or forgiveness from a higher power.
     “Divine forgiveness is a source of great comfort for people of faith,” said Frank Fincham, director of the FSU Family Institute in the College of Health and Human Sciences. “We know very little scientifically about how humans think about, experience and relate to this notion.”

    Fincham and his team will establish systematic research on the perception and experience of divine forgiveness to help understand its psychological implications and its interplay with other forms of forgiveness. An estimated 84% of the global population identifies with a religious group.

    Forgiveness is widely recognized as an important factor affecting relationship longevity and

satisfaction and overall mental health and well-being.

Forgiving others and forgiving one’s self have been studied to uncover their impact on human

emotion and behavior, but few studies have investigated the notion of divine forgiveness.

    The idea of forgiveness, forgiving others and seeking forgiveness from a higher power is a

foundational concept in most long standing religions. Initial research by Fincham suggests that

divine forgiveness predicts later interpersonal forgiveness, but the reverse is not the case. He

found that feeling forgiven by God or a higher power was associated with fewer depressive symptoms when self-forgiveness was low. Alternatively, when self-forgiveness was high, divine forgiveness made no difference to depressive symptoms.

    Among many items, the research will ask people to report on their experiences, frequency with which they feel forgiven by their God or gods, and how they go about seeking divine forgiveness. The grant also fosters innovative ideas and integrates them with empirical study to provide the first systematic body of research on divine forgiveness, he said.

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