A Gospel-Centered Counseling Approach

By Elena Kim

For two decades, professionals at Redeemer Counseling Services (RCS) have worked to identify ways to help the gospel become real in their clients’ lives. Clients’ lives were restored, healing was received, and joy was experienced – all due to the power and truth that the gospel brought to their lives.

Therapists shared with one another the numerous successes they witnessed during their client sessions. As a result of these cumulative client experiences, counselors at RCS knew that they had something special, and they wanted to document these life-altering pathways to study whether the gospel could be integrated into the lives of even more clients. After many years of collaboration, RCS has developed the Gospel-Integrated Framework for Therapy (GIFT).

Not only was documenting these countless stories an arduous task, but analyzing them at a deep level proved just as difficult. Fortunately, through funding from the John Templeton Foundation, Elena Kim and Dr. Judy Cha were able to conduct a research project at RCS to analyze the GIFT.  

The study was a large undertaking. It involved video recording over 400 client sessions, viewing over 150 video tapes, identifying key moments where the gospel became real to the client, transcribing these moments word-by-word, and then analyzing the precise process that clients underwent. However, the results were worth the time and effort. 

The first step revealed an outcome that the researchers had expected, but the second step included an additional, surprising process. As anticipated, the first pivotal moment occurred when clients perceived and received God’s compassion. While exploring their inner pain, each client was able to reach a place of despair and helplessness. It was in this season of despair that they came to know their need for God’s love, grace, and acceptance. With the guidance of counselor prayer, scripture and other counseling tools, clients then received God’s overwhelming compassion, which was evident by their strong emotional breakthrough.

The second step that emerged from the results was surprising yet necessary: confronting God. After receiving God’s compassion, each client engaged in a direct dialogue with God. Some were angry, others were sad and hurt, but each of these confrontations allowed God to speak into their despair, which the researchers realized was just as important as receiving God’s compassion. This brought healing by usurping internal lies clients had been struggling with, overshadowing feelings of neglect with grace and understanding, and covering clients with forgiveness and love after feeling shameful for a wrongdoing.

Receiving truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) is what changed the lives of these clients, and researchers at RCS are hoping to analyze whether clients that underwent the GIFT are experiencing happier and fuller lives in a follow-up study. This next phase would require additional recordings and detailed analyses of hundreds of sessions, but they hope to begin this two-year process after additional funding is confirmed. They are excited about this work and trust that God will provide for them to bring this work to completion.

The counselors at RCS know that the gospel changes everything. Documenting this through scientific methodology, however, is uncharted territory. Yet researchers and counselors at RCS are eager to embark on this journey. Scientifically validating the GIFT could open the doors to many more Christians around the country and the world who also desire to receive truth in love through gospel-centered counseling.

If you would like to support the Redeemer Counseling Research Fund, click this link.

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