Hope and Restoration

My time throughout college was teeming with discovery. I was learning so much about the world, and about myself, and I was facing my first test of independence. College truly felt like the gateway to limitless possibilities. This time was both exhilarating and terrifying, because I was terrified of making mistakes. I came in with so many questions about who I was and how the world worked, and as a brand new Christian, I was considering many questions about what God wanted for my life.

Through a series of divinely-inspired events, I was introduced to the Center for Christian Study, and specifically the then Directors of Undergraduate Ministry, Wes and Amy Zell, who began to love me well by providing pastoral and professional counseling. I was soaking up the teaching I was receiving at my church and in my Grounds ministry and learning in leaps and bounds. But there were times when I didn’t trust myself to know how to move forward to embrace my new life in Christ. I needed help seeing my own sin and that the Lord was in fact remaking me into something more beautiful. Counseling at the Study Center helped me to see those things and to know that I could safely hope in what the Lord could do for my future. In Amy’s words, “counseling that is rooted in Scripture and understood in the historic Christian faith can provide comfort, hope and restoration to those that are struggling in a broken world” and “deep brokenness can be brought into the restorative work of Christ, bringing transformation of hearts and minds and providing healing and beauty.”

Now, as one of the staff at the Study Center, I have the privilege of joining the rest of our directors in counseling students as they navigate the exhilarating and confusing whirlwind of college life. Our hope is to provide them a sure anchor in the person and work of Christ and in the study of God’s Word, so that all their learning brings them to a fuller knowledge and love of God that conforms them more and more to Christ’s own likeness. We do this in a number of ways, including our lectures, seminars, small groups, and hospitality events.

We also have the opportunity to counsel students one-on-one. We have spent hundreds of hours sitting with students talking and praying about what the gospel story has to say about their choices of classes, whom they date and marry, how they treat their roommates, and how they decide what careers to pursue. Sometimes those conversations happen once with a student when he or she comes wandering into our building with a crisis, knowing that there are staff members willing to help. Other conversations happen over months and years.

Sometimes we see students that need professional clinical counseling as they navigate this whirlwind. For some years now the Study Center has offered this sort of counseling to students through the presence of our trained and licensed professional counselor, Amy Zell. This past year we extended the number of available counseling hours by partnering with New City Counseling (NCC), a counseling practice based out of Trinity Presbyterian Church. Currently, Amy and two NCC counselors, Jen Paterno and Jason Brown, share an office in our building dedicated to professional counseling services.

Amy points out that the Study Center “provides a unique counseling opportunity because the location is accessible and non-threatening to students and because the counseling services are theologically sound, clinically rigorous, and relevant.” These counseling services have already been a boon to many students who have felt serious mental and emotional distress, due to issues like depression, anxiety, perfectionism, grief, suicide, sexual assault and abuse, body-image, divorce, or behavioral disorders. As we’ve counseled these students, we’re often able to work with UVA professionals to arrange for any needed academic extensions and long-term treatment plans so that students can reach a place of safety and stability as they work through the issues at hand. We get to help these students see that they are not alone in their confusion and pain, and that there is a God who loves them and is working to bring wholeness and holiness to their lives through the work of his son Jesus Christ. What a privilege indeed.