Ripple Effect: Smetzer Counseling Center (Part 1)
One of my favorite aspects of God is the way he redeems the painful events of our lives when we surrender them to him. A heart-wrenching struggle with infertility became an empathy and compassion for others struggling with their own childlessness. The unforeseen collapse of a long and seemingly happy marriage and the agony of loss and self doubt eventually gave birth to an identity based in Christ that cannot be lost. God provided a similar generous exchange for Frances, a woman who suffered great personal wounds early in life. Many years later, nearer to the end of her days than the beginning, Frances used the wealth with which she’d been blessed to endow a counseling center on the Ashland campus of Ashland Theological Seminary. Frances Smetzer, through The Smetzer Counseling Center, continues to impact the lives of those who benefit from the services of the counseling center which bears her name.
Ashland Theological Seminary has had a strong clinical mental health counseling program for many decades. Individuals from all over Ohio and as far away as Hungary have chosen Ashland as the place to pursue their goals of becoming clinical counselors. Ashland’s offering of a clinical mental health counseling degree taught with a Christian worldview provides exceptional training coupled with Christ-centered transformation. Frances’ husband, Ted, was impressed when he first visited the school – so much so that he made a significant pledge to the work planned for the future. When Ted died unexpectedly, Frances chose to honor that pledge. When the counseling center was envisioned, Frances saw an opportunity to act upon her compassion for single mothers and individuals lacking the resources to seek quality counseling. Her generous gift was a key piece of a building project that would house a counseling center where ability to pay would no longer prevent individuals from receiving care.
Ground was broken for the Smetzer Counseling Center in the Fall of 2000, and by Fall, 2001, the building was occupied and the counseling center was on its way to fulfilling its mission: “The Smetzer Counseling Center of Ashland Theological Seminary exists to bring comfort to a hurting and heavy-laden world through exceptional counseling from a Christian Worldview.” Since 2002, the center has been offering counseling services to seminary students, Ashland University students, and community members from Ashland and the surrounding areas. Accomplished professional clinical mental health counselors provide oversight and training to Counselor Trainees — students in the hands-on portion of their education. These men and women are pursuing licensure in Ohio as Professional Clinical Counselors, and this supervised practice is part of the counselor education process. Their diligent work, coupled with the oversight and wisdom of their licensed supervisors, is crucial to the center’s ability to offer quality counseling on a donation-only basis.
The students of Ashland’s clinical mental health counseling program come from a wide array of backgrounds. The richness of their personal experiences, combined with rigorous coursework and exceptional faculty and adjunct instructors, provides clients with outstanding, spiritually-sensitive counseling. Life is challenging, and individuals sometimes struggle to handle those challenges. The Smetzer Counseling Center offers individual, couples, family and group counseling addressing mental, emotional, relational and spiritual concerns, all on a donation-only basis. The care and encouragement of godly counsel, minus the additional stress of paying for counseling services without the benefit of insurance, is a gift that Frances continues to give.
Ashland Theological Seminary has been providing clinical mental health counseling services through the Smetzer Counseling Center for 10 years now. Hundreds of individuals have received care over the past decade, and the students who served them have gone on to practice counseling in Ohio, other states in the U.S., and even other countries around the world. Much like the impact of a stone dropped into still water, the ripple effect of one individual’s gift to Ashland Theological Seminary in response to her compassion for the hurting continues to expand — impacting people all around the world. The Smetzer Counseling Center has been a gift, not just to ATS, but to the world. I doubt that Frances realized fully that she lived a life of such exponential impact, but we’re all richer for her generosity.