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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 instructions 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 professional’s unique circumstances:

Who is the executor designated to take over if you are suddenly unavailable?

 What is his or her contact information?


Who will step in as a replacement if the designated executor cannot be

reached or is unable to fulfill his or her responsibilities?


Does your executor and others who will be involved have copies or access

to copies of keys, computer passwords, answering machine messages, and schedules?


Will someone have ready access to your clients’ charts? Have the informed 

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 clients need and desire that?

Does the executor (and backup executor) 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 professional liability carrier's name and

contact information?

Does the executor have contact information for a skilled and experienced

attorney who specialized in psychological practice? Has a skilled and

experienced attorney specializing in representing psychologists reviewed

the professional will? Does the executor have access to billing records and

know how you would like that handled? 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, attorney, office mates, secretary, receptionist, and family members.

Is the professional will reviewed every year for possible updates to contact

          tact information and passwords. 


Please note that 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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