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RI Discovery helps members control depression & fear
Written by Lu Stitt   
Friday, 01 July 2011 12:00

Anger, anxiety, depression, fear, self-deprecation — it seems more people are suffering these maladies than ever before.

Lorraine VanDenburgh invites anyone who is troubled with anxiety, depression or similar ailments to come to the Recovery International Discovery support group, which VanDenburgh facilitates, to see if it is a path that can help.Many factors can trigger these emotions and situations, and no one likes having them. Some people are able to work through them. Others are not so lucky and often don’t know what to do, and the problem escalates.

Fortunately, help is available today with counseling and support. A support group in Sedona is specifically aimed at addressing anger, anxiety, depression, fear and self-deprecation or self-loathing.

Recovery International, RI Discovery, uses a system of techniques for controlling behavior and changing attitudes developed by the late Dr. Abraham Low, who was a neuropsychiatrist in Illinois and professor at the University of Illinois Medical School.

Low was born in Poland in 1891, but went to school in France where he made a discovery at a young age. He was born into a family with an alcoholic father and a severely depressed mother. In France he met other families and discovered a different “culture” of people who solved problems calmly and politely. He realized there was a way to live with control over reactions to situations, Sedona RI Discovery facilitator Lorraine VanDenburgh said.

“Dr. Low wrote several books we can follow, and the method works. How we handle or don’t handle ourselves greatly affects our emotions and the emotions of those around us,” VanDenburgh said. “I’ve seen some impressive changes in peoples’ lives.”

VanDenburgh has experience behind her convictions. She came to RI Discovery because of anger, depression and self-loathing.

“It’s hard for people to believe when they meet me; I’m so quiet. Nobody knew what I was carrying,” VanDenburgh said.

She thinks what ailed her was partly genetics, or something in the family. Additionally, World War II came along when she was young, and news of the time fed the depression she suffered.

“We believe my grandfather had a mental illness. He always threatened to kill everybody. We lived together as an extended family. That’s what I was born into. Then the constant news about places that were bombed, how many people were killed and how many soldiers we lost — talk about depression,” VanDenburgh said. “After you grow up that way and become an adult you realize it was no way to live, but you didn’t know how to change it.”

She sought out counseling to help sort what was and wasn’t her responsibility.

“I had taken on a lot of responsibility that wasn’t mine, and there was no safe antidepressant then,” she said. “After I moved to Sedona later in life, I found RI.”

The discovery came about through VanDenburgh’s interest in people who had joy, and wished they could touch her and have some joy rub off. Then she met Ronda Chervin, a professor of philosophy who was in Sedona for a few years.

“She was always joyful. Little did people know she was given to great anger at times. She told me about RI. When I looked at it I thought, ‘That’s exactly what I need,’” VanDenburgh said. “I was just in euphoria. Now I had all the tools.”

After a few months, Chervin announced to the group she was moving out of town. She asked VanDenburgh to take over leadership of the group. Immediately a panic started, but VanDenburgh said Chervin told her she only needed to be average, not spectacular.

“I thought, ‘I can do average,’ and here I am. We’re small. Three, sometimes five people and we only use first names,” VanDenburgh said.

Anyone who is curious about RI or thinks the group may help them is invited to call and join. There is no pressure and no cost and the method is easy to follow, based on Low’s book “Mental Health Through Will Training” and other publications he produced. All of the tools, or steps, are laid out.

“There is something to be learned on every page. We have to learn how to live the everyday trivia, such as where the toothpaste tube should be squeezed,” VanDenburgh said and smiled. “You have to decide, ‘Am I going to let this little thing ruin my life?’ We work with trivia here.”

RI works on the principle that no one can change their past or anyone else but they can influence their future by how they react to everyday occurrences.

At the first meeting, VanDenburgh gives participants a handout of what to expect during a meeting and goes through some of the basic concepts. She also gives a list of the tools found in the book.

“We don’t expect anyone to understand everything at the first meeting, but in four meetings it tends to fall into place. Usually by the sixth meeting most people find themselves practicing the method and getting the control they hoped for,” VanDenburgh said.

A part of the method teaches participants how to “spot it, stop it, drop it.” First identify the emotion, stop it from moving further and drop it with the use of the tools learned. This is done through practice, VanDenburgh said.

“We help make the tools become a friend in your head. They will come to help you when you need them,” she said. “It’s about being in control of our emotions, not letting them be in control,” she said.

VanDenburgh has led the group for 15 years. She is a volunteer and a nonprofessional as well as a participant like everyone else. The group does not replace professional help. RI does not offer diagnosis, treatment, advice or counseling.

According to “Sue” whose named is changed to protect her privacy, being a member of the group has given her freedom.

“It provides an amazingly inviting box of simple tools from which to select for help whenever a problem, small or large, arises. Since the toolbox is always there, it is a source of comfort and reassurance. The group alleviates feelings of being alone and step-by-step consistently contributes to building my self-confidence, self-direction, self-sufficiency and self-respect,” she said.

With the recent cuts in government assistance and people out of work who never have been before, individuals need free resources that can help them get through the tough times, VanDenburgh said.

“Once you start thinking wisdom and good sense you start calming down,” she said.

RI Discovery meets every Sunday at 2 p.m. Call 282-7226 for the location.

Lu Stitt can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 122, or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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