Counseling alumna trains therapists from halfway around the world

September 16, 2011

By Tim Belter ’13

Ankur Counseling Center in Katmandu, Nepal, does all it can to help children in its area, despite its limited resources. Director Chhori Maharjan and her team of therapists provide counseling and therapy to children rescued from slavery and sex trafficking. Recently, they heard about play therapy and thought it could do wonders for their children, but they had no way to receive training.

Luckily, help came from halfway around the world. Jonna Tyler ’95, a Bradley counseling graduate, occasional Bradley instructor and therapist with the Antioch Group in Peoria, provides play therapy training and consults on therapy cases for Ankur every week via Skype.

After Bradley LEHC Chair Dr. Chris Rybak visited the center, he asked Tyler for her help in providing play therapy training. She had the necessary experience as a registered play therapist supervisor and the founding director of Antioch’s child clinic, but she also had an emotional attachment. Tyler had adopted her daughter from Guatemala and knew the plight of children in poorer areas of the world.

“Things are really different in other parts of the world,” she said. “We’re lucky to have everything we have.”

She wanted to help, but couldn’t uproot herself and leave her family for the length of time that would be required. Soon, however, she came up with the idea to provide the training over the Internet.

The plan faced some technical hitches right from the start. The counseling center’s one computer was an ancient desktop that struggled to maintain the necessary Internet connection. Maharjan applied for and received a government grant for a laptop computer, which she used to give Tyler a virtual tour of the facility. The Internet problems were resolved, and the training and consulting have been going well ever since.

Although Tyler doesn’t speak any of the Nepali language, all of the therapists at Ankur speak English as a second language, and they work out their communication issues and cultural differences together. Tyler says she has loved the chance to learn more about their country and culture while teaching them about her own. The most rewarding part, of course, is knowing that she is providing a service they can’t get in their own country.

“I will train them as long as I am needed,” she said. “Education is a privilege that they often can’t obtain.”