A Heart for Counseling
Part 1 – Meet Amy Hagler
The women at the Charis House arrive with a variety of addictions; but in almost every single case, the addiction is merely a symptom of a deeper problem. The goal of “getting sober” is why many women enter the Charis House; however, reaching that goal is only the beginning of their journey. True recovery encompasses gaining the skills necessary to manage everyday life, and at the Charis House, those skills are taught through a variety of Bible-based classes and Christ-centered counseling. Karen Cox is the lead therapist at the Charis House. During 2021, she has been blessed to have an intern – Amy Hagler – who is working toward a masters degree in counseling and psychology. In this week’s blog, we’ll introduce you to Amy and tell you how she came to work at the Charis House.
Originally from Virginia Beach, VA, Amy moved to Santa Rosa County when she was 12 years old, and then to Pensacola in 2020. A graduate of the University of West Florida with her BA in Psychology, Amy says she always knew she wanted to be in a helping profession. “Fun fact: I shadowed a local therapist in 8th grade for Career Shadow Day!” While she had some exposure to therapy work, Amy’s life took some twists and turns. She worked as a teacher for several years. “I taught in both public and private schools in Santa Rosa County, and as much as I loved the art of teaching, my heart was always in counseling. I went back to school at Troy University in 2019 to get my Masters in Counseling and Psychology, and I will graduate in December.”
While most of us would agree that working with women in need is certainly worthwhile, it can also be emotionally challenging.
In one of her earlier courses during her program, the students were required to visit a community mental health facility, interview the staff, and write a paper about the experience. “I have always been passionate about women’s issues, and every paper I’ve written has reflected that passion. When I heard about Charis House from one of my professors, I got in touch with Debbe Jefcoat (the previous Director of Women’s Recovery Ministries and the Charis House) about touring the Charis House and interviewing her. I fell in love with the program after talking to Debbe, and when she went over some of the titles of the Bible studies that people led for the ladies in the program, I even thought to myself that I would love to go to rehab to study those things!” Debbe invited Amy to attend the 2019 Charis House Graduation Service. “It was moving and inspirational. I was thankful to have had the opportunity to learn about Charis House, and it didn’t hurt that I got an ‘A’ on my paper and presentation.”
So how did writing a paper for a class lead to interning at the Charis House? “Fast forward to 2021. I had done my practicum at a faith-based private practice. It was a great experience, but I wanted a diverse experience as a student intern, so I thought I might give residential counseling a try. In a stunning turn of events that only God could have orchestrated, I contacted Ms. Vanessa Bettis to see if there were any internship opportunities at Charis House. She remembered me from my visit in 2019, and even said that Debbe had mentioned contacting me about interning at Charis House when I got to that point in my program. I then met Karen Cox, the Charis House therapist, a few months before I started working. We clicked immediately – both professionally and spiritually. Karen became my clinical supervisor. She is an amazing mentor and teacher, and I have learned so much from her.”
Amy’s sincere interest in counseling and therapy have been vital to her contributions at the Charis House, but she has an even more personal connection to the work she does. “I was married for 15 years to a man who struggled with addiction to alcohol and pills. We have 2 children. My husband had been to a secular rehab program in 2018 and relapsed 10 months later — on the Monday night of my 3rd week of graduate school. He spiraled downward pretty quickly from there, and in May 2020, after multiple interventions by pastors and counselors — as well as a few separations — it became clear that it was no longer safe for me and my children to be in that situation. Devastated, I left, and he slipped even further into addiction. I remember taking the substance abuse and recovery course that summer and thinking in my grief that I could never work with addicts after being married to one for 15 years. Our divorce was final August 4, 2020. Forty-two days later, on the morning of September 15 when Hurricane Sally was making landfall on the Gulf Coast, our two boys found him deceased in his bed. Our whole world was turned upside down. All my dreams of him getting sober and God redeeming our marriage died with him. It has been unimaginably complicated and heart-wrenching for my little family in the wake of his untimely death.”
“I started taking my boys to the Olive Counseling Center, which was one of the things that reminded me about the Charis House. God did a lot of work to soften my heart toward the struggles of those who are held captive by the shackles of addiction. I was overcome with compassion and knew that part of my ministry journey, as well as my own personal healing, would be to work with addicts. And, as only God can, He made a way. Truthfully, He had been working behind the scenes long before I was on board with His plan.”
Next week, learn what activities Amy leads at the Charis House, what she has learned and observed in her time there, and what she hopes to gain personally as her internship ends and she takes the next steps on her professional path.
The mission of Ministry Village at Olive is to put the words of Jesus into action throughout our community – “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40, NIV) If you are looking for a place to demonstrate kindness to others for the glory of God, give us a call. We have opportunities through the Bargain Center; at our Tender Hearts Caring Hands benevolence program and food pantry; through the Most Excellent Way addiction support groups; at the Charis House; and at the Ministry Village Early Learning Center.
The Charis House is a non-profit Christian-based residential substance abuse recovery program for females. The program is designed in 3 phases, each offering stages of recovery that provide the necessary tools for a practical transition into a new lifestyle free of addiction. The faith-based recovery program addresses the client’s personal relationship with God as the foundation for healing and wholeness. It requires a willingness to change and adhere to a controlled, strict and disciplined environment, allowing life-changing experiences to occur. There is no fee to apply.
To learn more about the Charis House, or how you can support our programs, click here or contact Vanessa Bettis at 850-475-1116 or VBettis@MinistryVillage.org.