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Bryant Counseling has a counselor whose life has taken her to a variety of places, including a few years in Armenia.
Avery Flory, a North Carolina native, originally received a degree in economics from Queens University in Charlotte, N.C. She followed a career in that field that included working as a fundraiser for a hospital and a stint selling securities. Over the years, however, her focus changed. She went back to school after her children grew up, earned a master’s degree in counseling and began practicing in 2000.
That was in the United States. It was her husband, Doug, who she would follow to Armenia.
Doug Flory grew up on a farm in the Shenandoah Valley, got a degree in animal science, but ended up working in rural banking. In 2002 President George W. Bush, with Senate confirmation, appointed him to a position with the federal Farm Credit Administration. Flory said that this agency provides 60 percent of the credit needed by farms in the U. S. and, unlike Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, did not need bailed out in the recent financial crisis.
“This is the only U. S. government organization that does not use taxpayer money,” he said.
Flory said that this agency raises money by selling agriculture bonds.
Later, he went to work as adjunct faculty for Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech was the contractor for a joint Department of State and United States Department of Agriculture project to develop rural cooperative projects in Armenia. Flory was hired by Tech because of his experience.
Armenia is located northeast of Turkey in the Caucasus Mountains.
The Florys spent much of their time in an area near the Turkish border, about 15 miles from Mt. Ararat. Ararat consists of two peaks, one 15,000 feet high and the other 17,000 feet high. Both have permanent snowcaps. The twin peaked mountain totally dominates the horizon.
Doug Flory recalled one time, while staying in a hotel near the mountain, when he was having his morning devotions on a balcony looking right at Mt. Ararat — with a white dove perched on the balcony’s rail.
Mt. Ararat is in Turkey, today, but was originally in Armenia. Doug Flory said that, during Joseph Stalin’s time, when Armenia was part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Stalin transfered that area to Turkey in a bid to get Turkey to join the Soviet Union.
Flory said that Armenia is about the size of Maryland. It’s a dry country with a short, but harsh winter. It’s average elevation is 5,000 feet with its highest peak towering to 16,000 feet.
The country is host to many ancient buildings. During their stay, the Florys toured one church that was built in the late 4th century. It’s still in use today.
Doug Flory had an interpreter with him at all times, but only needed him in rural areas. He said that most educated Armenians speak English, as well as French and Russian. Russian is common because Armenia had long been part of the Old Russian Empire, then the USSR until the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
He noted that the rural areas were poor and agriculture was backward.
“They grow vegetables and fruits like we grew them before the 1950s,” he said.
Yerevan, the country’s capital, in contrast, is a large, advanced city. Flory said that he had to have an appendectomy while there. One of the two Armenian surgeons he had was trained at Harvard and one of the two cardiologists who checked in on him during his eight day stay had trained at Johns Hopkins. His total bill came to $3,035.
“The hospital was as good as any here,” he commented.
During his four years in the country, Flory developed a great deal of respect for Armenians.
After returning to the United States this year, in May, the couple settled in the Smith Mountain Lake area. They already owned property at the Lake and Avery Flory noted that this seemed to be a good place to put down roots. Avery Flory started work with Bryant Counseling, in Bedford, this fall.
She said that all the counselors at Bryant have specialties. She specializes in counseling women. She works with women who have depression or have been sexually abused. She counsels women whose husbands are addicted to pornography.
“This is something that you just don’t call up your neighbor about,” she said.
Pornography addiction isn’t an exclusively male problem.
“It’s not something that women are immune to either,” Flory said.
“It’s devastating for a woman,” she added. “It’s a betrayal.”
Flory counsels women on mother/daughter issues or general relationship problems, including relationship problems with other family members.
“It’s based on Christian ethics,” Flory said of her counseling, adding that she holds a Doctor of Divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Flory said that, when she counsels a fellow Christian, it becomes a three-way relationship because the Holy Spirit is involved.
“It’s a ministry I feel like I’m called to do,” she said.
She feels that this means that she can be helpful counseling Christian women who are upset with the church or upset with God. She would like to be a person to whom pastors can refer women. She notes that, while pastors counsel, they have many demands on them in addition to counseling.
Flory does not counsel children, but she said that there are people at Bryant who are good at that.
“Here at Bryant Counseling, our mission is to provide quality mental health care to the area,” Flory said.
Along with counselors like her, Flory said that Bryant also has a psychiatrist who comes in two days a week.
Flory said that Bryant Counseling is open Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The individual counselors, however, are flexible and can be available at different times to meet a client’s needs.