Christian Counselor Training in Ukraine

Dennis O. Bowen

Seminaries, Bible colleges, and church-based training of Christian workers have emerged in great numbers since 1990. Pastors have been trained, missionaries sent out, churches planted, and many other ministries have been started. However, very few Christian counselors have been trained. Nevertheless, pastors, missionaries, Sunday school teachers, and church elders are all doing counseling today, but, in most cases, without training in counseling skills. Certainly well under ten percent of church leaders in the former Soviet Union have any training in this field. A few counseling books have been translated, and some counseling seminars have been held. All this has been a help to the church. But Christian counselor training should be the next priority for church leadership training. This article, while not comprehensive, does provide an overview of all that is underway in counseling and counselor training in Ukraine.

Free-Standing Programs

The Realis Center (Research, Education, and Light Center) in Kyiv launched a three-and-one-half-year, graduate-level training program in Christian counseling in 2001. The first class of 28 students completed the program of study in 2005. Six of these graduates continued with the Realis Center for supervised practical ministry training. The Center also operates a counseling center at Christ Cathedral Church, one of Kyiv’s large evangelical churches, where Realis Center graduates meet with clients, gaining valuable experience. In addition to the counselor training program, the Realise intercultural communication.

The Eurasia Soul Care Training Center began offering extension training and modular courses in counseling in 2008. One-week sessions are held four times a year. The program offers training in biblical counseling at extension sites in Odessa, Rivne, and Sumy, Ukraine, and in Krasnodar, Russia. Two groups of students completed their three-year course of study in 2007. The program is popular with pastors, who make up approximately 50 percent of the enrollment.

Another biblical counseling training program began in Kyiv in 2002, and presently continues under the name International Counseling Institute Coram Deo. The teaching team, with the help of Dr. Ron Harris, author of the curriculum, delivers this training and mentoring program in 12 modules over the course of three years. After quarterly, one-week sessions, pastors and church leaders are mentored in practical work with clients. The program maintains the emphases of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF), a biblical counseling training ministry based in Glenside, Pennsylvania, U.S.

Another extension program, in which courses may be taken at the student’s own pace, is the Internet-based training offered by the Association of Christian Counselors of Ukraine (UACC). The curriculum and courses have been adapted and translated from the French ACC training program. UACC also organized an all-Ukraine Christian counseling conference in June 2007. This was one of the first national conferences for Christian counselors in Ukraine.

Since 1997 Youth with a Mission in Kyiv has presented an introduction to biblical counseling on four occasions, and its Addictive Behavior School twice. These courses of study are accredited through YWAM’s University of the Nations ( YWAM schools consist of three months of coursework followed by three months of practicum and outreach.

University and Seminary Programs

Kyiv Christian University (KCU) teaches individual courses in Christian counseling, but no longer offers a counseling major at its residential campus. KCU, accredited through the Euro-Asian Accrediting Association of Evangelical Schools, currently is considering a specialization in Christian counseling for its residential and graduate level programs.

Kyiv Orthodox Seminary prepares students for the priesthood by focusing on theology and pastoral ministry. While it does not have a major in counseling or a related field, it does offer some general psychology courses as part of its curriculum. This is a pattern that is followed by many seminaries of various denominations in Ukraine.

One program of theological education that has had an extensive offering in counseling and psychology is Odessa Theological Seminary (Evangelical Christian-Baptist). Its curriculum includes introductory classes in psychology and counseling which are designated as dushepopechitelstvo (soul care), along with related courses. Donetsk Christian University also offers courses in Christian counseling as part of its Bachelor in Pastoral Ministry degree. Carl and JoLynn Krause, who developed this program, have offered courses in pastoral ministry and pastoral care, marriage and family counseling, and biblical counseling.

Grace and Truth Seminary in Kyiv has been offering Introduction to Christian Counseling and Christian Marriage and Family courses in its residential and extension programs for several years. The seminary has plans for a specialization in Christian counseling at both the bachelor’s and master’s levels.

From 2001 to 2005 Ukraine Evangelical Theological Seminary (UETS) in Kyiv offered a three-year certificate in Christian counseling. However, staff departures because of pregnancies and other factors led to the closure of this residential program. Fortunately, Christian counseling courses continue in the seminary’s four-year Bachelor of Theology extension program, which currently enrolls 151 students.

UETS, along with some Christian professionals in the field, took the initiative in early 2005 to start a Christian counseling center. This Rapha Center trained graduates of various Christian counselor training programs and offered services to patients. The center offered family systems therapy training, featuring live observation of sessions, plus group supervision for students. The Rapha Center has since closed.

The Vosozhdenie Center

The Vosozhdenie Center, another Christian counseling service in Kyiv, opened its doors in 2005. Supervised by the author and his wife, Lydia, the center employs seven counselors who completed the three-and-one-half years master’s program through the Realis Center. These seven students spend two academic years in the center’s internship program. In fall 2007 two interns returned for their second year, and two interns began their practicum. Interns, who range in age from 27 to 55, typically have completed a university degree in such fields as biology, education, languages, or psychology. One intern completed a master’s degree in psychology from a state university in Kyiv.

The goal for the first group of interns at the Vosozhdenie Center was to have each one receive no less than 100 hours performing counseling, with a minimum of 400 hours in internship. Some interns have exceeded this target. We meet weekly for group supervision; in addition, interns meet for individual supervision. Counselors and interns have led Christian 12-step dependency recovery groups and educational groups; they have taught church and community seminars; and they have consulted with Christian organizations. They offer individual counseling and have begun to offer family and couple therapy. To prepare for marriage and family counseling, I presented a 30-hour marriage and family therapy skills course for our interns and other interested students in Kyiv. In the winter and spring of 2007 the interns had live observations of weekly family sessions. Also in spring 2007 the center presented a seminar for counselors and leaders on pre-marital counseling.

In summary, two extension biblical counselor training programs, one Internet-based Christian counselor training program, and one ongoing supervision and internship program are operating in Ukraine, in addition to seminaries that offer one or more relevant courses. Unfortunately, very few teachers or clinicians have training and experience in clinical supervision in Ukraine. It is clear that despite recent progress, shortcomings still exist in Christian counselor training in Ukraine. While great gaps may be noted in Christian counselor training in Ukraine, developments in this field in recent years give hope for the many hurting people who need wholeness in Christ, presented to them via a healthy church and a caring listening ear

 Dennis O. Bowen is a licensed clinical psychologist living and working in Kyiv. He earned a Psy.D. degree in clinical psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology and a master’s degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He and his wife, Lydia, have served 12 years in the former Soviet Union with ReachGlobal, formerly the Evangelical Free Church International Mission. In addition to the Vosozhdenie Center, the Bowens have taught in the Realis Center, Ukraine Evangelical Theological Seminary, Grace and Truth Seminary, Kyiv Christian University, and Donetsk Christian University.


Editor’s Note: By the same author see “Training Pastoral Counselors in Russia,” East-West Church and Ministry Report 12 (Spring 2004), 3-4; and Christian Psychology in Russia,” East-West Church & Ministry Report 6 (Spring 1998), 11-12.

 Christian Psychology in Russia,” East-West Church & Ministry Report 6 (Spring 1998), 11-12.