Professional counseling until recently has been non-existent in Ukraine. There is not even a word for it. The closest that comes to it is the word “consultant.” A consultant is generally understood to be someone who gives counsel or advice on a product.
Recently, Vika Brzhezitskyy, who is developing our counselor training program, identified herself to a stranger with the introduction, “I’m a counselor.” The person, thinking she was a marketing advocate, responded with the words, “Oh, you sell juice?” Worse yet, anyone seeking counseling is considered to be mentally-ill. A psycho. But all of that is rapidly changing. And SMU is at the forefront.
Our counseling ministry began four years ago when Vika Brzhezitskyy, the wife or our national director, came to America for counselor training. This provided the spark for her to continue her training in Kiev with Dennis Bowen and associates, an American Counselor Training Team. She has since graduated and has developed three programs.
A counselor training school has been opened in Zhitomir with ten students. The classes, attended by both men and women, are taught by Vika and other trained counselors from Kiev. Interest is running high. One woman, unable to pay the small fee charged for the training, pawned her wedding ring just to enable her to attend.
There is also an acute need for individual counseling. Recently, Vika has opened a counseling office in the Samaritan Training Center. Many who come to her are afraid of being judged by their pastors or simply being told to go to the Bible for answers. After a few sessions they realize that this is a safe environment where they can express their true feelings.
Vika has also introduced a parenting class for young mothers entitled, “Parenting With a Pleasure.” The class is a welcome alternative to a controlling and shame-based parental leadership style, which is common place in Ukraine. Parents who have attended the classes are eager to learn new and more productive ways of raising their children.