A call to counsel

Rev. Dr. P.J. Lawrence is out to spread the word about the benefits of gaining skills in counselling and psychology.

The Regional Director of the Institute for Theological and Leadership Development says Hurricane Ivan brought that to the forefront.

‘We had about 30 trained and skilled counsellors on the island when the storm took place. Some were in shelters, others were in churches – they were all in different places offering a listening ear and counselling.’

Several students are now involved in the Neighbours Helping Neighbours community support groups to help people cope with stress and other hurricane-related problems.

‘It shows the vital importance of training and acquiring skills in psychology and counselling, especially now in post-Ivan conditions.’

Run by the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, the institute is taking registration for its next round of courses, which include certificate, bachelor and master’s level programs.

Though the hurricane demolished the ITLD building on Prospect Point Road, the school is up and running with classes continuing in alternate venues.

‘It’s important to keep it going. There is a great future for this program. I strongly believe that. We’re not giving in or giving up.’

Times have been trying, however. The ITLD building will have to be torn down and its future development is still being decided. Although most of the books in its library were saved, proper storage space still hasn’t been found. For now, they’re stacked in a room at the youth centre on site, which also needs major repairs.

Enrolment has dropped as well. There were about 100 students before the storm. That number stands at 70 now, though attendance is still irregular.

‘It is a very difficult time. Some students have lost books, papers; all the work they have done.’

The church council and executive is meeting next week to decide the future of the ITLD facility and other property on that site. Meanwhile, Rev. Lawrence is hoping to drum up interest in its educational offerings.

He said what makes the ITLD programs unique is that participants have the option of taking the entire course or simply choosing one or two classes that are of interest. A popular audit class, for example, is Life Span Psychology, which chronicles behavioral changes through the various stages of life. The classes are delivered in the evening and, in the case of the master’s program, in intensive long weekend seminars that are held once a month.

‘It’s open to anybody. Although it’s a tertiary program, we don’t restrict entry.’

Rev. Lawrence says feedback from students and graduates has been positive, whether they’re looking to pursue a career in counselling or simply want to take a course or two to learn how to deal more effectively in their relationships or workplace. He said most agree that personal growth and development has been the greatest reward.

‘Anyone can benefit. You can be more effective as a teacher, a nurse, a police officer, social worker, a business person or even if you have the responsibility of taking care of children at home.’

He said that’s especially vital after Ivan as people continue to contend with the ups and downs of rebuilding their lives.

‘After the hurricane, after the earthquake, people are really shaken. Life itself has become insecure. Wherever you are, you’re involved in listening to somebody’s problems and you can do that more effectively if you have some idea of the psychology of human behaviour and the skills of counselling.’

The ITLD’s certificate program in Community Care and Counselling begins 21 February. The BA program in Guidance and Counselling starts 14 March. Both will be held at Cayman Prep and High School. Courses in the MA program in Pastoral Psychology and Counselling, which is delivered in partnership with St. Stephen’s College in Alberta, Canada, begin 24 February. Seminars will be held at Elmslie United Church. The institute also offers a degree program in theology and eldership training.

For more information and a list of subjects offered, call 925-6448 or 947-6417.

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