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ReachGlobal brings counseling to a distressed Ukraine

By July 20, 2012

Ukraine (MNN) — In a nation where mental distress runs high, the number of available mental health professionals is severely lacking.

Many Ukrainians suffer from various levels of mental distress: Ukraine is ranked as #13 in the world for suicides per 100,000 people. Alcohol contributed to 40% of all deaths among Ukrainian men five years ago. Almost 80% of Ukrainian men have been regular smokers at one point in their lives, and 60% still are.

The outlook for Ukraine's struggling individuals is grim. A January 2011 article in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry reported bluntly: "In Ukraine, primary care physicians have almost no training in the recognition and treatment of mental health problems, and outpatient psychiatric services of common mental disorders like depression are practically non-existent."

To help address that void, ReachGlobal counselor Dennis Bowen, Psy.D., and his wife, Lydia, founded the Kiev Family Counseling Training Team (KFCT) in 2009.

"The Soviet Union didn't have Christian counselors, and there are a lot of hurting people out there," says Bowen, 61. "The mental health system, the whole social service system, is not what we're used to in the U.S., so services are very sparse."

Because Soviet authorities often used psychiatry and psychology as tools of control, people tend not to trust what services the government does offer. So instead of getting help, people across this country of almost 46 million languish in mental disorders and addictions.

But KFCT is helping. It offers a two-year Christian counseling training program. The ministry trains counselors at the layperson, pastoral, and professional levels. It also prepares Ukrainian Christian leaders for family ministry in local churches through seminars conducted at churches and community centers.

KFCT has graduated 15 students since 2009 and currently has seven interns (three men and four women) practicing Christian counseling. While about 50 students have taken classes from KFCT, the ministry's interns are the ones who get the experience they need to serve a full range of clients as they do an average of 500 hours of supervised counseling before they see clients on their own.

This work allows believers to be Christ to the nation in a new way. They provide the care that Jesus did to so many by pointing people to Him.

Currently, KFCT is putting the finishing touches on a 500-square-foot, three-room office that sits atop one of Kiev's dozens of new apartment buildings. The ministry has also spread to Zhitomir, a city of about 250,000 people 120 km from Kiev. The new counseling office is run by KFCT intern Viktorya Brzhezytskaya who uses it to counsel clients and run a parenting program called "Make Parenting a Pleasure," which draws 10 to 18 people three times a week.

As opportunities continue to grow, prayer is a must. Pray that the trainees would grow into strong counselors who point people to Christ. Pray that this work might draw many to or back to the Lord to help turn Ukraine's mental distress to eternal hope and joy.

You can donate to the KFCT if you feel led. Click here to give.

One Comment

  • Russ Buckbee says:

    I learned about your work today in SS class at First Christian in Kent. I admire your work, and am particularly caught by it as I’m a christian psychotherapist specializing in trauma therapy. Is there some way I could help on line ?

    Trouble getting this thru. Says it’s a duplicate. I’ll pray for you and hope this gets thru.

    Russ Buckbee, LISW

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