Women who make the difficult decision to enter Renewal, Miracle Hill’s residential addiction recovery center, often have experienced years and even decades of chemical dependency, abuse and unhealthy choices resulting from unhealthy thinking. They’ve established patterns of acting on impulse and not considering the consequences of their actions. Breaking those patterns can be daunting, but two volunteers, Suzanne Ringger and Karen O’Neal, have begun teaching classes at Renewal which, in essence, re-train the brains of the women at the center, helping them become better thinkers.
The classes are making a big difference and are helping women to stay-the-course and complete the recovery program. Suzanne and Karen are educational therapists at the Pearl Center for Learning, a learning center in Mauldin, SC which specializes in helping students overcome learning disabilities. Miracle Hill asked Suzanne and Karen to share about their experience at Renewal and to provide some insight on how the therapy works.
MH: What is the Pearl Center for Learning and how do you help students?
Suzanne: We do educational therapy, not tutoring. We believe in the plasticity of the brain and work at “rewiring” to overcome difficulties in learning.
MH: How did you get connected with Miracle Hill and Renewal?
Karen: Suzanne asked if any of her therapists would be interested in teaching Feuerstein’s Instrumental Enrichment (FIE) to the women in the Renewal program along with her. I jumped at the chance for two reasons. One, I believe in the ability of the FIE instruments to help change cognition through mediation between a therapist and one or more students. Two, I believe in the ministries of Miracle Hill and have always wanted to have the opportunity to serve in some capacity.
MH: Why were you drawn in particular to Renewal?
Karen: The best part for me is getting to know the ladies. They are choosing the pain of change over the pain of staying the same, and I am so proud of them. They become sisters, daughters, and friends to me. I am so jazzed by the progress they make.
MH: What is a typical class at Renewal like?
Karen: A typical session is one hour. During the session the students are being exposed to what good thinking looks like. They are presented with several new “thinking tools” each week and then are given the opportunity to practice using them with a specified task. When the task is completed, the ladies are then asked to tell how a certain thinking tool was used, build a principle around that thinking tool, and then make application to some other area of life.
MH: What kind of victories have you seen in some of the women’s lives?
Suzanne: I remember the day we talked about “considering more than one source of information”. One lady told us that when she did a job search, she would not look only at the money, but the hours, the atmosphere, and the other employees before she made her choice. Another mentioned that the cognitive function of “staying calm” (we teach some strategies), had helped her in times when she formerly would panic.
Another student said, “My important cognitive function for my future will be thinking things through before responding and planning behavior. I’m choosing this because my past relapse was based on fear and impulse.”
MH: What’s the best thing about volunteering?
Karen: We see lights go on, hope kindled, and love of learning and challenges taking place. It is such a joy!
Suzanne: The best thing about volunteering is the joy on the faces when we share the truth that God made our brains in amazing ways and that they can be “rewired” to become better thinkers.
MH: What encouragement would you offer to someone who would like to volunteer in the community but doesn’t know where to begin?
Karen: I would encourage others who desire to serve somewhere in the community to continually talk to God about it and ask Him to get you ready and then show you the place He prepared you for.
Suzanne: I’ll quote George Washington Carver: “Start where you are with what you have…” Everyone can be a friend.
For more information about Miracle Hill’s Renewal program or for information about volunteering, contact Venus Dixon at firstname.lastname@example.org or (864) 242-2166. For information about the volunteer work of Suzanne Ringger and Karen O’Neal or about the Pearl Center for Learning, contact Suzanne Ringger at email@example.com or (864) 675-9200.