“We didn’t sign up for the war when we first started,” said Regent University School of Psychology & Counseling (SPC) assistant professor, Dr. Olya Zaporozhets.
But war is a reality for the people of Ukraine, especially near the Crimean border, where for the last two years, Regent SPC students and faculty have broken into online supervision for trauma and compassion fatigue training.
Zaporozhets’ work with her students includes the occasional visit to Ukraine for face-to-face conferences and training sessions. This past June, she was part of a conference with students from the Tavriski Christian Institute and the Ukrainian Evangelical Seminary.
Regent’s online supervisory relationship with Ukrainian students began in 2012, just before the nation’s political unrest grew into an all-out revolution. It was an almost providential job: to begin training the people of Ukraine in treating trauma, just a few months before the true trauma of war began in their own nation.
Zaporozhets and her team had to navigate the obstacles of taking the radical approach of supervising counseling students in a cross-cultural context. She spent time at the different schools training her students how to identify the symptoms of compassion fatigue, a phenomenon that occurs when officials become numb to the tragedy in their midst.
“When we were beginning this project, I think we faced a lot of skepticism. People would ask, ‘Tell me again, what are you going to do?'” she explained.
But through the past few years, Zaporozhets has seen evidence of her online supervision program working.
“I love seeing our students, who may feel isolated at first connecting, and learning new counseling techniques, meeting new people,” said Zaporozhets. “This professional movement was really refreshing and a real blessing.”
Zaporozhets is no stranger to establishing meaningful, online relationships, having left family in Ukraine when she moved to the United States. Now, she and her family have regular dates on Skype, and she affirms its usefulness in keeping connected with the people she loves most. This experience only enhances her relationships with her students.
Regent is doing more than just training these students. They are in the midst of revolutionizing counseling education, an after-effect that Zaporozhets is most pleased with, though she’s careful to give credit where it’s due:
“All of this is so much bigger than us – God is in all of this,” said Zaporozhets. “You do as much as you can and He does the rest. And it’s just like walking in a miracle.”