Through this quarterly Update, we want to share the healing work that God is doing through Redeemer Counseling because of friends like you and gospel-centered views on issues that many people face. Please share this link to friends who may want to sign up: counseling.redeemer.com/update

One in five adults experience mental illness each year in the U.S.* Redeemer Counseling helps clients with a wide range of issues such as anxiety, depression, grief, addictive disorders, relational issues, trauma, and more.

One of our 45 counselors, Jane,** worked in corporate for many years and then pursued a degree in counseling. She became a counselor here at Redeemer to reach the hurting and direct them back to God. Jane finds it meaningful to counsel people like her 23-year-old client who is working through the pain of her assault.

“I want her to become whole so she can give to her family, her friends, and her community now and through the next 50 years. She can’t afford the lowest end of our sliding scale, $35, but you can help her and the lives that she touches.”

*National Alliance for Mental Illness 2018

** Jane is a pseudonym

Making Emotional Connections in Relationships

By Judy Cha, Ph.D, LMFT - Director of Redeemer Counseling Services

What makes relationships strong? What does it mean to be close with someone? How does a person you know become someone you trust? The strength of the bond or emotional connection established within the relationship allows those in it to feel close and trust one another. Emotional connection is the experience of having been heard, seen, and valued as you are. It embodies wholehearted acceptance of another through both verbal and nonverbal means. It establishes that your relational counterpart is for you, in support of you in the present, and will be there for you in the future. It is what we desire, as relational beings created to develop our sense of self in relationships.

Both scripture and psychology affirm the premise that our identity cannot be generated within ourselves, but in relationships. From the beginning God made us to be in relationship with him. He created us in his image giving us identity and purpose to reflect and represent him. We were created for himself, to glorify him and enjoy him forever. So, as John Calvin, a reformed theologian, contended, we cannot know ourselves fully apart from knowing God.1 In addition in Gen. 2:18, he declares, “It is not good for man to be alone,” asserting that we were also made to be in relationships with other people. Throughout the scriptures, we are reminded of the interplay between our relationship with God and other people. For example, the Body of Christ (the church) is also the Bride of Christ. In Matt. 22:35-40, all of God’s commands are summed up in the greatest commandments to love God and to love others. Likewise, a number of psychological theories, such as the Object Relations Theory and Attachment Theory, affirm that humans are relational beings and our sense of self is developed in relationships with others.

Since the fall, we have been alienated from God, losing our connection with our Creator, our primary source of identity. Yet, since we were created to be relational, even in our fallenness, we still unconsciously derive our identity in relationships. Therefore, the nature of our relationship with others, the level of emotional connection experienced in our relationships are not only significant in shaping who we are, but also carries huge potential for influencing how we perceive God.


Emotional connection is the power in relationships to transform the way we see ourselves, other people, and how we experience God. The depth of emotional connection serves as a gauge of relational health and long- term viability. It also provides the best defense against destructive, conflict-induced relational wounds. In truth, conflicts are inevitable in close relationships, but when strong connection exists, conflicts are much easier to manage and, in fact, can be used to create even deeper connections.

When we experience emotional connection in a relationship, it affects how we feel about ourselves and how we perceive others. For example, when we experience feeling loved, we see ourselves as being lovable and see the other as loving. When this becomes a repeated experience, we will start to really believe that we are lovable and that others are loving. This kind of connection is called secure attachment, where we see ourselves and others in a positive manner, and as a result, we feel safe and more confident to explore new things and face life’s challenges. Moreover, when we experience healthy emotional connection in our relationships, we will have more empathy for others, more patience for differences, and greater tolerance for our own faults and negative feelings.


Emotional connection is something we can pursue intentionally. It is practical because it is much easier to initiate a new behavior than to stop conditioned behaviors. All of us can begin creating emotional connection in our relationships. Here are a few suggestions:

► Pay attention to nonverbal communication both received and given. Notice the facial expressions or body language of others and follow up with meaningful questions, such as, “It seems like you have a lot on your mind, are you OK?” or “You’re really quiet today—is everything alright?

► Be on the lookout for “emotional bids” from loved ones. This is the term defined by Dr. John Gottman in his groundbreaking research in this field as small gestures between people that can either be dismissed or engaged.2 Healthy emotional connection either forms or fails depending on our responses to these “emotional bids.”

► Recall a memory that made you feel close to that person and tell him or her about it: What you remember, how you felt, how he or she made you feel, and what you remember feeling toward him or her in that moment.

► Nurture an emotional connection with God. This is a process in which we progressively internalize our identity in Christ and experience God as a real person. The use of our imagination to create an emotional connection with God brings new meaning to the command to love our God with all our heart, soul, and mind.3

► Remember that how God views us ought to inform how we feel about ourselves and how we respond to him and to others. Use your imagination to consider the following questions: How does God see me? How do I feel about me in light of how God sees me? What images come to mind when I think about God?

1. Westminster Assembly, Kelly, D. F., Rollinson, P. B., & Marsh, F. T. (1986). The Westminster Shorter catechism in modern English. Phillipsburg, N.J: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co.

2. Emily Esfahani Smith, “Masters of Love,” The Atlantic, June 12, 2014. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/happily-ever- after/372573/

3. “Jesus replied: ‘‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” Matthew 22:37.

Counseling Groups Offered in Spring 2020

Foster meaningful relationships, accountability and hope in a safe community by joining a counseling group. Spring group topics include boundaries in relationships, anxiety, sexual integrity and more. Check our website in January for the dates and times these groups will be offered: counseling.redeemer.com/groups.

Merry Christmas from our Redeemer Counseling family!

We are so grateful and humbled by what God chooses to do through your support and each counselor, as they walk with people through seasons of pain and turmoil. We are here to offer God’s healing, one heart at a time. And we want to wish you and your family a happy, healthy and emotionally connected holiday season.

Support Redeemer Counseling’s Ministry

For more than 30 years, Redeemer Counseling remains committed to transforming people through gospel-centered psychotherapy from all walks of life. In 2018, we served over 3,000 people from over 200 churches through 23,125 sessions! Over 65% of those sessions were subsidized by givers like you. We had to refer over 800+ individuals to outside help due to our long waiting list.

Through December 31st, your gift will be matched 2X!

For example: Your $100 gift will bring us $300

$300 would subsidize 10 counseling sessions

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If you have any questions about this newsletter, please contact [email protected]