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Educational Resource Centre Sobesednik

(Moscow)

The Charitable Foundation Russian Orthodoxy together with the psychology department of the University of St John the Theologian implements a joint project to create a Resource Centre for Education and Psychological Counseling Sobesednik (Interlocutor).

The Resource centre Sobesednik was created for the following purposes:

  • Psychological aid to population;
  • Information and methodological support to specialists working with people;
  • Additional training to psychologists, teachers, social and medical workers;
  • Capacity building of religious organizations in rendering psychological aid and spiritual support to the HIV infected, people with AIDS and their relatives;
  • Training and supervision of specialists and volunteers working with people living with HIV/AIDS;
  • Training of the clergy to work with people living with HIV/AIDS (in particular, convicts and drug addicts).

The centre Sobesednik works in several areas.

Seminars and Trainings

Sobesednik organizes training and therapeutic seminars in Moscow and other cities:

  • Emotional burnout prevention among specialists of auxiliary trades;
  • Teaching efficient communication skills;
  • Work with emotional states (loneliness, fear, resentment, guilt, rage, shame);
  • Work with psychological trauma and post-traumatic states;
  • Teaching methods of combating crisis;
  • Prevention of addiction and affected behaviour.
  • These seminars are designed for a general public, not only for psychologists, educators, medical and social workers, and students, but also for people interested in Christian psychology as well as for those who need psychological aid. Work is organized in small groups, a limited number of participants is accepted.
  • Seminars and trainings are delivered by the Resource centre staff and invited specialists, psychologists, psychotherapists, and the clergy. The centre has plans to convene such issue-related seminars on weekends beginning with February (except for the Orthodox Christian feasts). The schedule is currently being verified.

Basics of Orthodox Christian Psychology Courses

Sobesednik trains specialists and volunteers at the in-service training courses Basics of Orthodox Christian Psychology. The training programme objectives are to complement basic psychological or related (medical and pedagogical) education of students with theological anthropological teaching, create a basis for Christian oriented practical work, identify denominational boarders in psychotherapeutic practice, and teach students how to implement knowledge and methods based on the Orthodox spiritual tradition in their work.

The training programme consists of several sections:

  1. Spiritual basis of Christian psychological aid. The course describes the place of psychological aid in Church modern life, Orthodox Christian counselling as ministry, and the anthropological basics of psychological aid. The course is conducted in the form of lectures and discussion.
  2. Theory and practice of Orthodox Christian counselling. The course is dedicated to the theory of personality, theory of developing symptoms, discussion of possibilities of and peculiarities in the application of psychological therapeutic techniques and strategies within the framework of Orthodox Christian counselling. The course is conducted in the form of seminars, presentations and practical exercises.
  3. Methods of group and individual work of an Orthodox Christian psychologist. A set of methods, which can be used by a practicing psychologist and counselling psychologist. The course is conducted in the form of seminars, demonstrations, practical exercises, training counselling and supervision.
  4. Methods in family psychology. Theory, practice and supervision.

The course developers assumed that Orthodox Christian practical psychology should be based on the Orthodox theological and ascetic tradition and believe that this tradition helps not only adequately asses the current psychotherapeutic approaches, strategies and techniques, but also implement them successfully in the work of an Orthodox Christian specialist having subjected them to a constructive criticism.

In the course of training our students:

  • Form a vision of the place of a Christian practical psychologist in Church life;
  • Familiarize with the theological and anthropological basics of a psychological aid process;
  • Study a theoretical and practical course of Orthodox Christian spiritually oriented psychological counselling;
  • Expand their set of individual and group work methods that can be used in their practice.

The in-service training courses offer various forms of education, evening and on-site/by correspondence training (intensive course). The evening course offers classes three times a week during 3.5 months (from 6 pm till 9 pm twice during the week and from 10 am till 6 pm on Saturday). The intensive course offers classes from 10 am till 7.30 pm on Saturday and Sunday once every two months, which is convenient for students from other towns and cities.

Graduates receive advanced training certificates of the specialty Psychological Counselling or participation certificates (depending on major subjects of the student's basic higher education).

Training for Those Who Work with the HIV Positive

The Resource centre Sobesednik convenes seminars on Training Volunteers of Orthodox Christian Initiatives Rendering Palliative Help to PLWHA and Affected. The seminars bring together psychological counsellors, social workers, educators, medical workers, volunteers working with PLWHA and their relatives. This education is carried out under the auspices of the Russian Orthodox Church in coordination with the ROC programme against HIV/AIDS spread in our country. This aspect of work of the centre is supported by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The seminar programme is designed for 50 academic hours. Two groups of 15 people each from different dioceses - Moscow, St Petersburg, Smolensk, Briansk, Nizhny Novgorod, Podolsk, Cheboksary etc. - attended these seminars on June 8 - 12th and September 5 - 10th, 2007. The September seminar was conducted with the involvement of Ekaterina Ustinova, UNDP project coordinator, who presented a UNDP and USAID programme Support to HIV and AIDS Prevention and Palliative Care Initiatives of Faith-Based Organisations in the Russian Federation.

The Resource centre Sobesednik also offers information and training in methodology to the clergy who are called to work with PLWHA, in particular convicts and drug addicts. Training seminars on HIV/AIDS help the clergy (including those who work in penitentiary institutions) from different dioceses to get some medical and psychological training in AIDS prevention and control issues (For more information on the programme see the September 2007 News Letter.)

The Resource centre staff have designed a model of training volunteers, members of a parish community rendering palliative help to people with HIV/AIDS. On May 12-13th, 2007, they convened a pilot seminar to test a new model within a parish (on the work of volunteers) at one of the Moscow parishes with the blessing of its senior priest. The theme was Training in the Methods of an Orthodox Christian Social Service in AIDS Prevention and Control. The seminar participants can later be involved in anti-AIDS work.

The seminar participants underlined in their Feed-back Questionnaire that the training was undoubtedly useful for their subsequent work with people living with HIV/AIDS. The senior priest of the church that hosted the seminar for the parishioners stressed the importance of further cooperation with the Resource centre under the Charitable Foundation Russian Orthodoxy and need to introduce this training model in other parishes with initiative groups, which offer palliative aid to those who need it, in particular to people with HIV/AIDS and the affected. A successful application of this model proves it worth to be recommended for dissemination in regions.

The Resource centre project envisaged organizing a mobile team - a psychologist, doctor and priest - to help in conducting training seminars in regions. The first field seminar at the AIDS Centre was held in Orenburg on August 6-7th, 2007. It gathered together both medical workers (the AIDS Centre staff) and volunteers (parishioners), educators, the clergy, including those who work with convicts and drug addicts, as well as peer-to-peer counsellors, i.e. HIV-positive volunteers. There were 22 participants. The mobile team of the Resource centre invited the chef doctor of the AIDS Centre (city of Ivanovo) as its doctor, which contributed to a fruitful exchange of experience between regions. The Orenburg Diocesan Directorate expressed its gratitude to the centre Sobesednik for a professional organization of the training seminar. It was said that timeliness and need for such forms of work and cooperation raise no doubt among the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church. The next visit of Sobesednik's mobile team to Orenburg was scheduled on December13-14th, 2007.

Psychological Counselling

The psychological counselling office of the centre Sobesednik offers counselling or psychological help, invites to a course of individual or family counselling as well as to seminars and trainings on different issues. The counselling office was opened in 2003 under the psychology department of the University of St John the Theologian. The Sobesednik counselling office offers:

  • Counselling by Orthodox Christian specialists (psychological counsellors and psychotherapists);
  • Talk with a priest;
  • Family counselling;
  • Help in difficult family situations and in solving emotional problems.

Counselling can be offered individually and in groups.

The goal of the counselling office is to bring together efforts of Orthodox Christian specialists who render various services in the sphere of Christian counselling and spiritually oriented psychotherapy. Practical work, discussions at the consultation office, in research papers and published materials by our people form the basis of an Orthodox Christian school of psychotherapy, which integrates the most important methods of modern secular therapy on the solid foundation of the Holy Fathers' Orthodox theology.

The specialists of the psychological counselling office work within the Christianity oriented field of psychology.

Travelling Issue-related Seminars

Sobesednik has regularly organized travelling issue-related seminars since 2005:

  • Summer school - 2005 Basics of Orthodox Christian Psychology (July 16-24th, 2005);
  • Summer school - 2006 Orthodox Christian Teaching about Family and Marriage (July 14-21st, 2006);
  • Winter school - 2007 Religion in Family Relations (January 26-28th, 2007);
  • Summer school - 2007 Gender Problems. Masculine Psychology (July 13-19th, 2007);
  • Winter school - 2008 Love and Dependence (January 10-13th, 2008);
  • Summer school - 2008 Theme is to be verified (July 13-20th, 2008).

The Schools are organized at a holiday house in the country not far from Moscow. Participants are accommodated in double rooms with all the conveniences (shower, toilet) and a 3-meals board. All the participants are handed participation Certificates at the end of the course.

Travelling seminars are conducted by lecturers of the Moscow State University, the University of St John the Theologian, Moscow Municipal Pedagogic and Psychology University, practicing psychological counsellors and psychotherapists, and priests. Classes present both theoretical material and practical elements: exercises in pairs and small groups, demonstration of possibilities and peculiarities of application of different psychotherapeutic methods in spiritually oriented Christian psychology, and discussion.

The travelling seminars gather participants from Moscow, St Petersburg, Kiev (Ukraine), Lipetsk, Briansk, Orenburg, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Obninsk, Saarbrucken (Germany), etc. Both summer and winter schools are organized for specialists of helping occupations (psychologists, medical and social workers, educators) as well as for all those who are interested in Christian psychology.

Participation in Conferences and Fairs

Specialists of the Resource centre Sobesednik actively participate in All-Russian and international conferences and fairs. For example, on October 26, 2007, a report on the Resource centre Sobesednik was included in the paper presented by .. Krasnikova, head of the project, and priest Andrey Lorgus, chairman of the board of the Russian Orthodoxy Charitable Foundation, dean of St John the Theologian University, at the 2nd International Conference convened by the National Fund for Protecting Children against Abuse.

On November 1-4th, 2007, the Resource educational centre Sobesednik was presented at the booth of the Charitable Foundation Russian Orthodoxy at the 6th Church and public fair and forum Orthodox Christian Russia for the Day of National Unity, which took place at Expocentre, Moscow.

On November 15-16th, 2007, priest Andrey Lorgus and O.M. Krasnikova presented work of the Resource centre Sobesednik at a plenary session of the research and practical conference Role of Spirituality in Prevention and Health Promotion that took place at the Russian State University of I. Kant, Kaliningrad. The centre's education programme generated strong interest among representatives of the Education Ministry and Health Ministry, as well as the Kaliningrad diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church. Currently possible co-operation is negotiated.

Currently the Resource centre's web-site is under development, and it will be possible to visit it since late December - early January through the site of the Charitable Foundation Russian Orthodoxy www.ortho-rus.ru .

You can turn for psychological support, acquire necessary knowledge and skills in psychological counselling, find connection between modern psychology and Holy Fathers' teaching, exchange accumulated experience, and meet with colleagues and co-thinkers at the Resource centre Sobesednik.

You are always welcome at Sobesednik!

Olga M. Krasnikova,
Head of the Resource centre Sobesednik
e-mail: olga-krasnikova@yandex.ru

You can get additional information on the Resource centre Sobesednik if you call 8 926 533 01 28, or e-mail: seminari-rpu@ yandex.ru

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