Ten years ago Debbie Hamilton, a licensed professional counselor, opened the New Hope Counseling Center on the campus of the Alaska Christian College (ACC). The center’s original purpose was primarily to help native Alaskans to transition from village life to college life here on the Peninsula. Then, in 2009, a new counseling center was constructed on the ACC campus and new staff was brought in to broaden the center’s services.
“We now have three clinicians on our staff,” Hamilton told the Dispatch in an interview, “Peggy Barkman and Ted Mole are with us, and they received their licenses in the fall of 2011. We’ve seen tremendous changes in the last decade. We originally started New Hope Counseling Center to offer counseling services to students attending ACC. Part of the ACC mission, in addition to biblical training and discipleship, is to offer free counseling services while attending ACC. Many come from bush Alaska with past histories of domestic abuse and violence and a world of issues that can be helped through counseling. In 2006 we opened our services to folks from as far as Cooper Landing to Seldovia, and even western Alaska as well,” said Hamilton.
According to Hamilton, 75 percent of New Hope Counseling Center’s services are now available to the community at large.
“Our goal is still to be sure we are meeting the needs of ACC students, but with our great staff we have been able to expand,” she said.
Hamilton says times have changed and more people are comfortable calling for help when their lives aren’t going so well.
“It can be challenging to ask for help, but we encourage people to make that phone call. We work hard to create a very comfortable, hospitable environment here at the Center, where people can come and feel at home, enjoy a cup of coffee while relaxing and allow a counselor to walk alongside in their journey. We also encourage people to call when they are not in crisis so that we can possibly intervene and help them develop some tools for their marriage or personal life that can prevent crisis. We had a new student a couple of weeks ago, and we asked for her first impression as a means of gathering feedback. Her comment was, ‘I know why they call this “New Hope.” I walked away feeling that things can be better and that things were going to get better,’ she said.”
You can learn more about New Hope Counseling Center services and staff by calling Carla Baker, office manager, at 260-7423, or visit their new website at www.newhopesoldotna.com