The REMA approach has recently been revamped in 2022 and freshly described for another six years. It was conceived and developed at London School of Theology during the summer of 2013 by the Theology and Counselling team. A new textbook will underpin the foundations of this in counselling theory.
The REMA approach was launched in 2014 in response to the need for a fully spiritual and bespoke framework for the new Theology and Counselling degree. Birthing this project meant collaborating and bringing together the very specific and diverse gifts of the team, both in the therapeutic and the theological worlds (founded on our deep personal faith).
It was the culmination of many years of frustration of working with parts of models and therapeutic tools that did not quite seem to provide a comprehensive approach to counselling from a spiritual and Christian perspective for the range of people, cultures and issues that our students face. LST enjoys a high ratio of BAME students; this social experience is incorporated into our approach.
Our theology and worldview incorporate a critical realistic approach to epistemology. Based solidly on the Christian Scriptures, we affirm that truth is grasped through a dialogue between text, traditions of human thought and interpretation, and reason informed by experience.
Key theological foundations for us are incarnation (which means the embodied experience matters and has value before God, including disordered body and disability) and eschatology (because of the tension between the “already” and the “not yet”). Our commitment to critical realism means that we are willing to be hospitable to difference and open to finding God in unexpected places.
The perspective of the course is that biblical faith traditions have very rich resources to draw on which provides an important and wholly justified correlate with what can be learned from psychological theory and practice. This is not offered here in the sense of an ‘applied theology’ as if the conversation only goes one way. Our approach rather is one of dialogue between two very different fields of discourse and study. Theological reflection and the social science world underpinning the study of human beings can talk to each other. It is a two-way street. Where they can meet is around the value of people which is both a deeply theological idea and a social science construct that does heavy lifting. It is a stance linking together:
- The value of human beings as a working assumption in ethical frameworks that seek to promote the equal respect and non-discrimination that informs best practice and law. We treat people the same or aspire to as worthy of respect. That humans should be treated in a certain way is a theological idea about those made in the image of God.
- The value of human beings as also a psycho-social dynamic driver. We are hard wired to pursue this in our lives: high value is a powerful motivation. Where this is not forthcoming in our social or inter-personal world, something happens inside that dents our sense of self.
The approach to therapy here is that it is sociologically attuned. Most counselling models were developed in the last century by white middle class men. Our approach seeks to incorporate issues of race, gender and categories of disadvantage into the heart of the model. It does this through analysing how responses to what is going on in a client’s social world form part of their identity. Their social experience is part of the story of their lives. Social scripts merge with inter-personal dramas in a way that is patterned in the unconscious. The deep impact of cultural identity reaches deep down inside.
The REMA Approach offers a set of lenses with which to integrate Counselling theory with Theology.
The 4 lenses are Relational, Embodied, Meaning Making and Agency (REMA)
We believe that it is fundamental to who we are as human beings, that created by a relational and Trinitarian God, we relate and look for relationship within ourselves, with the divine, humanity and the created world. So our relationships are outward as well as inwards.
While people are physically located in time and space, humans are impacted by the effect of relationships and the environment on their developing sense of self. The language of Self and the Self-psychologies, neurobiology, attachment theory and developmental psychology fit well with this relational anthropology.
Our humanity is embodied. Spirituality and sexuality are at the very core of our being, which both touch and affect us within our fleshly bodies at a very deep level. While wanting to work with the parts, we recognise that these are aspects of being human. We take seriously the transpersonal dimensions of human life and the embodied nature of feeling and memory.
Meaning making is more than a cognitive capacity by which we reflect on our lives. Narrative and telling our story is crucial for humans, both our individual stories and the bigger metanarratives with which we identify and by which we explain who we are.
This view is compatible with the scriptural view of mystery by which we know that we do not know and are content. The relational connection with God, with others, with the world, means we can hold on to an ultimate sense for our existence. So meaning and trust are closely related.
This is the capacity and need of human beings to feel in charge of themselves, to be able to have impact and significance in the world, and to make a difference. It can be in tension with our need for relationship. Agency is closely related to hope; we act as human beings, in the hope of achievement. Our sense of self and of our social identity is bound up with our agency, our capacity to do something and to act out of a sense of capacity to be creative.