Photo by Tony Cece

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Counseling Team Serves in Ukraine

By Brett Wilson
July 25, 2013

"People have the same kinds of problems in the Ukraine that that they have here in the United States," said Regent University School of Psychology & Counseling (SPC) assistant professor Dr. Olya Zaporozhets. "But there really are no counseling services in the country."

This summer, Zaporozhets—a Ukrainian native—traveled to Tavriyskiy Christian Institute (TCI), a growing private educational institution located in Southeastern Ukraine. There, she and assistant professor Dr. Linda Leitch-Alford, piloted SPC's first training and supervision missions program for ten of TCI's undergraduate counseling students.

"It was really a growing experience for our team, to see them step out and assume supervisory roles in a cross-cultural setting," said Zaporozhets. "That was really amazing to me."

Zaporozhets and Leitch-Alford were accompanied by five team members, composed of former and current SPC students. The team spent a week with the Ukrainian students, teaching them basic counseling skills. Zaporozhets explained that this endeavor is helping to fulfill a need in the Ukrainian culture.

"Every one of them recognized that counseling skills are needed within their churches—TCI students are pursuing this education with the very slim chance of having a secular position or making any money with this degree," said Zaporozhets. "All of them are looking at applying these skills as a ministering opportunity—without getting paid."

At the week's end, the five Regent team members were assigned two TCI students each to supervise their continuing education in the counseling field throughout the 2013-2014 school year. Leitch-Alford and Zaporozhets will guide Regent's participating team members as they touch base with their supervisees once a week via Skype.

"No one has really done this before," said Zaporozhets. "Some people didn't even think that this would work out in a cross-cultural setting."

Though these long-distance supervisory methods are new, Zaporozhets explained that the enthusiasm of the Ukrainian students will sustain the program and likely encourage the genesis of similar missions programs in the future.

"They were really eager to learn and excited that someone was taking the time to train them one-on-one and explain these skills," said Zaporozhets. "They were really very appreciative."

While Leitch-Alford also acknowledged the enthusiasm of the Ukrainian students, she was impressed with the caliber of dedication from the supervisory team from SPC.

"I was watching them work, and I just kept saying to myself, 'I can't believe what I'm seeing, I can't believe I'm here, and I can't believe these students are doing these incredible tasks!'" said Leitch-Alford.

While Leitch-Alford hopes this yearlong supervisory experience will be valuable for the participating SPC students and alumni, she is also pleased with the opportunity to continue to encourage the counseling students in Ukraine.

"They're so full and rich-spirited, and they're ready—I've been telling people that the fields there are ready to harvest, but the fruits are going to rot in the field," said Leitch-Alford. "This is something that we have to do."

Learn more about Regent University School of Psychology & Counseling.

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