Online class helps students curb anger, improve health

A course called Forgiveness and Anger Reduction, offered through the educational psychology department, is changing lives and curing headaches.

This is the third semester the U’s Academic Outreach and Continuing Education program has offered the class online, and this spring it is available for three credits.

The class is designed to teach people how to help others reduce anger, sadness or anxiety and to keep from holding grudges and learn to forgive, Jeanne Farr, the course’s instructor, said.

Farr said the goal is “to train people to become forgiveness coaches.”

The class outlines two researchers and their work on forgiveness and requires a service-learning component.

“They have to give workshops or coach someone or write articles to help someone in the community,” Farr said.

At the beginning of the semester, the instructor gives the class a questionnaire and has students pick out one or two past grudges. She has them work on the grudges throughout the semester with the concepts they learn.

When the students review the grudges at the end of the semester, their hostility and anger have dropped, Farr said, as well as health problems such as headaches or stomach aches.

Many people carry a grudge or have anger problems for which they could get help. Farr gave the example of a minor grudge, like someone with road rage.

“They get into their car and turn into a monster behind the wheel; they have something going on there. But if it’s a minor grudge, you can pretty much work on it within a year.”

Farr said this particular topic has been studied for about 25 years, but recently in psychology it has become a huge area of research with two emphases: health and interventions.

Lori Findeis, a licensed clinical social worker and a student in the course last fall, said, “I work with sexual abuse victims, and it’s something I saw. I could help my clients, both the children and the parents of the abused child, to learn to forgive.”

Counselors have been using health interventions to help their clients more often than they used to and are finding benefits to mental health-it can help with a drop in depression, anxiety and hurt.

Findeis said she found the class helpful because it gave her “an outline” for concepts she already knew but for which she hadn’t established a format.

Although Findeis would have rather sat in a classroom, she found it helpful to take it online because of the interaction of online chatting.

She said some people never speak in class, but the online chats created “a lot of distance; (people) may have felt less awkward disclosing something.”

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