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What Are the 5 Characteristics of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a guiding force that helps you succeed in all areas of life. To better understand how it can help with your mental health and addiction recovery, it’s important to recognize the 5 components of emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence Component 1: Self-Awareness

People often feel overcome with emotions. Feelings can take control over you, guiding your thoughts, behaviors and relationships. Without self-awareness, the anger that the car alarm generates might lead you to respond with adverse behaviors, such as lashing out at your roommate.

You don’t have to let your emotions dominate you. But before you can change anything, you need to become aware of your underlying feelings. If you can’t identify what’s going on emotionally, you won’t be able to take the next steps toward developing emotional intelligence skills.

Self-awareness is the clear perception of multiple aspects of your personality, including the ability to name and understand your emotions. It also involves recognizing how your actions and behaviors affect others, and vice versa.

Developing self-awareness is the first step in enhancing your emotional intelligence. We work on this continually at Renewal Lodge.

We help people with addictions and substance use disorders recover. Get mindfulness training and learn the 12 Steps for deeper healing.

Signs of Low Self-Awareness Emotional Intelligence Skills

A lack of self-awareness can look like:

  • Misinterpreting your emotional reactions
  • Responding to situations in inappropriate or incongruent ways
  • Having intense emotional outbursts
  • Blaming other people or substances for your problems
  • Defensiveness
  • Criticizing others
  • Feelings of isolation and a sense that others don’t relate to you
  • Failing to take accountability for your actions

How to Improve Your Self-Awareness

Some ways to develop the self-awareness component of emotional intelligence include:

  • Keeping a journal
  • Reflecting on past behaviors
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Practicing open communication with a counselor or therapist
  • Learning the vocabulary to describe your emotions
  • Watching your thoughts without judging them
  • Recognizing destructive self-talk

Emotional Intelligence Component 2: Self-Regulation

The self-regulation component of emotional intelligence means that you express your emotions in a healthy way. Avoiding or blocking your feelings isn’t the answer. When you don’t process your feelings, you can end up exacerbating the negative emotions.

Self-regulation as an emotional intelligence skill allows you to take your power back. Instead of letting your emotions control you, you can make conscious decisions about how you will react to them.

Signs of Deficient Self-Regulation Emotional Intelligence Skills

Some signs that you could work on your self-regulation emotional intelligence skills include:

  • Impulsive reactions or outbursts that are disproportionate to the trigger
  • Impatience and low tolerance to frustration
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Difficulty regulating physical reactions to emotions, such as rapid heart rate
  • Trouble with cognition in the face of powerful emotions
  • Poor social adjustment

How to Improve Your Self-Regulation Skills

You can enhance your self-regulation skills with the following approaches:

  • Learn coping strategies for managing emotions
  • Practice distress tolerance
  • Work with cognitive behavioral therapy techniques
  • Identify and reduce triggers
  • Redirect your attention
  • Practice positive reframing

Emotional Intelligence Component 3: Social Skills

When you work on the other components of emotional intelligence, you’ll likely notice that your relationships improve. Someone with the strong emotional intelligence skills of self-awareness and self-regulation is often easy to be around. They don’t react impulsively, and they’re likely to have positive interactions with people.

Developing your emotional intelligence improves your social skills. Conversely, improving your social skills will further enhance your emotional intelligence. You’ll create meaningful relationships, which support you in your addiction recovery.

Signs of Poor Social Skills

People with poor social skills may have the following traits:

  • Relationship problems
  • Few friends
  • Difficulty connecting with others
  • Misunderstanding sarcasm or humor
  • Talking too much or interrupting frequently
  • Inappropriate sharing
  • Withdrawing from conversations

How to Improve Your Social Skills

You can improve your emotional intelligence social skills in the following ways:

  • Learning and practicing active listening
  • Maintaining appropriate eye contact
  • Awareness of body language
  • Learning how to respond appropriately to keep a conversation going
  • Role-playing social situations with a therapist

Emotional Intelligence Component 4: Empathy

Once you have become more familiar with your own emotions, you’ll be able to understand how other people respond to their emotions. This helps you develop empathy, which is the ability to see a situation from someone else’s perspective.

Combined with the other emotional intelligence skills, empathy also helps you respond appropriately when those around you are experiencing big emotions. Empathy helps you have healthy interactions with others, navigate conflict, make decisions and maintain your boundaries.

Signs of Low Empathy Emotional Intelligence Skills

Some signs that you could build your emotional intelligence empathy skills include:

  • Difficulty evaluating the effects of your actions
  • Being judgmental of others
  • Thinking others are too sensitive
  • Believing you’re always right
  • Failing to maintain a conversation if there is a disagreement
  • Indifference to other people’s celebrations or hardships

How to Improve Your Empathy

Improving empathy in emotional intelligence involves the following:

  • Observe others with a non-judgmental, open mind
  • Gain more experiences
  • Try new things
  • Volunteer or join a shared cause
  • Practice communication skills
  • Make yourself vulnerable in safe settings

Emotional Intelligence Component 5: Motivation

Motivation is what gives you the impetus to work on all of these emotional intelligence components. It helps you take each day at a time and progress in your addiction recovery.

People with high emotional intelligence tend to have strong intrinsic motivation. This means that they’re inspired by internal factors, such as a flow state or the achievement of a personal goal. Working on the emotional intelligence component of motivation helps you stay focused in the face of adversity. It allows you to overcome challenges, take advantage of opportunities and stay sober even when it’s hard.

Signs of Low Motivation Emotional Intelligence Skills

Low motivation could be a factor in your emotional intelligence if the following are true:

  • Difficulty setting or achieving goals
  • Poor follow-through
  • Low commitment
  • Pessimism
  • Rigidity
  • Not living up to your potential

How to Improve Your Motivation

Build motivation and enhance your emotional intelligence by using the following methods:

  • Have an accountability partner or therapist help you set goals
  • Celebrate small wins
  • Challenge yourself moderately
  • Do something new every day
  • Set up a routine that creates positive momentum for your day
  • Do something small and consistent every day

Developing emotional intelligence skills doesn’t happen overnight. It’s an ongoing practice that involves honesty, facing fears, mindfulness, communication and openness to change. At Renewal Lodge, we are here to help you develop all aspects of your emotional intelligence. With enhanced emotional intelligence skills, you will feel more confident, fulfilled, expressive and purposeful. You’ll be able to ride the waves of life instead of letting them crash over you.

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Dr. Veda von Bergen, DNP, APRN, FNP-C, RYT-200
Doctor of Nursing and Family Nurse Practitioner
Dr. Veda von Bergen plays a crucial role as a Doctor of Nursing and Family Nurse Practitioner at Renewal Lodge. With her extensive experience and expertise in the field of nursing, Dr. von Bergen provides exceptional care to patients seeking treatment for mental health, substance abuse and addiction. At Renewal Lodge, Dr. von Bergen works closely with a team of healthcare professionals to develop personalized treatment plans for each patient. She is responsible for conducting comprehensive assessments, diagnosing medical conditions, and providing evidence-based treatment options to help patients achieve long-term recovery.
Justin Mehan
Justin Mehan, PMHNP
Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Justin Mehan, PMHNP serves as board-certified Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner at Renewal Lodge. With a strong commitment to helping those struggling with mental health and addiction issues, Justin brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to his role. As a Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Justin specializes in treating patients of all ages, from children to seniors. He is trained to diagnose and treat a wide range of mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. In addition, he has extensive experience in treating addiction and substance abuse disorders. Justin’s compassionate and patient-centered approach to care makes him a valuable asset to the Renewal Lodge team.
Dr. Julius F. Cantu, M.D.
Medical Director
Dr. Julius F. Cantu, M.D. serves as the Medical Director at Renewal Lodge. With over two decades of experience in treating patients with addiction and mental health disorders, Dr. Cantu is an expert in dual diagnosis treatment. At Renewal Lodge, Dr. Cantu works closely with a team of experienced clinicians to provide comprehensive care to individuals struggling with addiction and co-occurring mental health issues. He is known for his compassionate and personalized approach to care, and is dedicated to helping his patients achieve lasting recovery. Dr. Cantu’s expertise in dual diagnosis treatment is especially valuable, as many individuals with addiction also suffer from underlying mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. By addressing both the addiction and the mental health issue simultaneously, Dr. Cantu and the Renewal Lodge team are able to provide the most effective and holistic care possible.
Gerad Davis
Gerad Davis
Admissions Specialist
Gerad serves as a dedicated Admissions Specialist for Burning Tree Programs. Engaged in his passion for helping others, Gerad exudes a calm and attentive ear for every person seeking our support. By gathering insights, focussing on solutions, and identifying resources for our family members, he fulfills a vital service to those afflicted by the disease of addiction. In long-term recovery since 2018, Gerad is a grateful Burning Tree alumni whose mission is to serve the interest of those in need. In his spare time he enjoys writing, painting, and training for marathons.
Paulo Jacuzzi
Admissions Specialist
Paulo Jacuzzi serves as Admissions Specialist for Burning Tree Programs. After graduating Burning Tree in 2001, he returned home to help manage the family business. Serving in various C-Level roles including President and CEO, Paulo declares, “It was an honor to be entrusted with my father’s legacy; a true gift of sobriety.” He rejoined the Burning Tree Team in 2023. “My passion is to help families struggling with addiction, and to aid them in finding the freedom we discovered.” Sober for more than twenty years, Paulo and his bride, Jennifer, live in Arkansas with their ever-expanding brood of rescue animals.
Holly Burnett
Admissions Specialist
Holly Serves as Admissions Specialist for Burning Tree Programs. Having worked in various clinical roles throughout her career, what Holly most enjoys is connecting clients and families with the services they need to achieve their full potential in recovery. With the ultimate goal of becoming a licensed therapist, she is currently completing her degree in Social Work. Certified as a Mindfulness In Recovery Facilitator, she seeks to lend a sense of calm, diligent attention to the important needs of each and every loved one that seeks help from the Burning Tree organization.
Allison Stoutenger, LCDCI, Counselor
Allison Stoutenger, LCDCI
Allison serves as Counselor for Renewal Lodge. Informed by her education in Biology and Psychology, Allison utilizes evidence-based therapeutic practices to help each client achieve a new freedom, and a new happiness. Prioritizing a teamwork approach, she values coordinating with the psychiatric, medical, and clinical team to help uncover and treat co-occurring mental health disorders that support better treatment outcomes. An active member of the Austin-area recovery community, Allison and her husband share two beautiful children.
Brittany O'Malley, LCDCI, Clinical Team Member
Brittany O'Malley, LCDCI
Clinical Team Member
Brittany serves as a valuable member of the Renewal Lodge clinical team. Sober since 2015, Brittany is an active member of the Austin, TX recovery community, an avid animal lover, and a long-time advocate for mental health and addiction. Holding a degree from Howard College, Brittany completed her addiction studies education at the renowned ICDS Institute. Soon to be married to the love of her life, Brittany has a cat named Frank and a dog named Tank.

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Dear Renewal Lodge Visitors,

My name is John Bruna, co-founder of the Mindfulness in Recovery® Institute, and more importantly, a grateful member of the recovery community. I am incredibly fortunate to have found my recovery in 1984. Of course, I did not achieve continuous recovery through willpower or my own efforts, but through the guidance and caring support of countless others that selflessly taught me how to live through the 12 Steps.

My journey of recovery brought this once homeless, shame-based, traumatized, insecure young man to a life far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I discovered self-worth, the joy of helping others, the gifts of parenting and grandparenting, and most importantly the ability to live a meaningful and purposeful life with integrity.

One of the greatest gifts of recovery is that I have the opportunity to give back and help others discover their self-worth, dignity, and the skills to fully live lives that they find truly meaningful. This is the inspiration for developing the skills of Mindfulness in Recovery® (MIR) to meet the needs of new generations struggling with alcohol and other substance use disorders. MIR is a set of evidence-based skills designed to help people fully integrate their tools of recovery in ways that are personalized, practical, and in alignment with their deepest values.

While we train counselors and therapists throughout the United States and abroad, I personally have chosen to work directly with the amazing team and clients at Renewal Lodge to develop the model MIR 12-step program for the nation. I choose Renewal Lodge because of the vision of its mission and the dedication of its team. Renewal Lodge is an extremely rare environment in which the staff embodies the very mindfulness and 12-step practices and skills they offer their clients. The results have been beyond my expectations. It is an honor to be here and I treasure my personal time with every client I meet.

With Gratitude,

John Bruna
John Bruna
Director of Mindfulness

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Patty Raymer
Patty Raymer
Sr. Biz. Dev. Representative
Patty Raymer serves as Sr. National Business Development Representative for Burning Tree Programs. Active in the national recovery community since 1992, Patty has enjoyed over 30 years of sobriety, service, and excellence in her personal triumph over addiction. Today she helps guide families and clients in their own quest for meaningful, individualized treatment solutions. As one of the most recognizable names in our industry, Patty believes that enrolling in one’s own personal work is the best way for the family to heal from the wounds of addiction. Subscribed to the mantra of “Trust God, Clean House, Help Others,” Patty and her husband reside in the beautiful Texas Hill Country.
Russell Angell, BS, LCDC
Russell Angell, BS, LCDC
Primary Counselor
Russell Angell serves as a Primary Counselor for Renewal Lodge. He graduated from Texas Tech University with a Bachelor of Sciences in Human Sciences, is a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor Intern, and a Certified Mindfulness In Recovery Facilitator. He utilizes the therapeutic modalities of ACT, Motivational Interviewing and mindfulness practice. Russell hopes to use his own life experiences as a person in recovery to help his clients connect with themselves and find a more meaningful, purpose-driven life, and to share his passion for the intersection between spirituality and mental health. Russell is happily married with one son and lives in Elgin, Texas.
Craig Powell
Craig Powell
Financial Assistant
Craig Powell serves as a Finance Assistant at Renewal Lodge. He has grown within the organization since starting out as a Recovery Mentor and has maintained sobriety since 2019. Craig is responsible for assisting the Comptroller in collecting payments, sending and receiving invoices and ancillary transactions. In his spare time he enjoys gaming and spending time with his step daughter and significant other.
Cody Odom, MS
Cody Odom, MS
Chief Financial Officer
Cody Odom serves as Chief Financial Officer at Burning Tree Programs. With a Master’s of Science in Accounting, he is responsible for overseeing all financial operations within the organization, including budgeting, financial analysis, and reporting. He understands the financial burdens that families face when seeking treatment for their loved ones, and he is passionate about finding ways to make treatment more accessible and affordable. A native Texan, sober softball enthusiast, and parent to two adorable cats, Cody and his wife, Sarah, reside in Bastrop, TX. Sober since 2015, he is dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of those struggling with addiction.
Evan Varty
Evan Varty
Director of Utilization Review
Evan Varty serves as the Director of Utilization Review at Renewal Lodge. His experience as a client with The Lodge back in 2018 is what launched his passion for helping others. Now as a part of the team at Renewal Lodge he is furthering his education and studying to become a LCDC. In his role as Director of UR Evan manages the utilization review department, insurance contracting, credentialing, and continuing care.
Rico Hernandez
Rico Hernandez
Rico Hernandez serves as the Director of Maintenance for Renewal Lodge. Responsible for managing and maintaining the Grounds, Facilities, and Fleet of the eleven acre property of Renewal Lodge. Rico employs a broad range of professional skills in commercial and residential construction. Earning employee of the year twice since 2009. Rico, his son and three dogs Puggles, Franklin (Pugs) and Ace (Husky) reside in his home town of Elgin Tx. Rico exhibits Renewal Lodge passion for “Creating a life of excellence beyond sobriety”.
Jessica Peralez, BS
Jessica Peralez, BS
Director of Operations
Jessica Peralez serves in the combined role of Operation Director and Human Resources Administrator. She has a passion for helping others where she gravitated towards the field of substance abuse. As a daughter of a recovered alcoholic, she wanted to continue to be of service for clients and employees alike. She has been with Burning Tree since 2018 and resides in the nearby town of Bastrop, Texas with her two dogs and fiancé. She is engaged to be married in February of 2023. She intends to pursue obtaining her PHR certification to assist in the development and future growth of Burning Tree.
Lauren Juvers
Lauren Juvers
Nat’l Biz. Dev. Representative
Lauren Juvers serves as National Business Development Representative for Burning Tree Programs. Responsible for acting as an ambassador of the program, Lauren’s duties consist of sharing her personal story of recovery, working with professionals who specialize in treating addiction, and giving hope to families who are desperate to help their loved ones. As an Alumnae of Burning Tree Ranch, she describes the program as a “nationally known, long-term residential treatment center for the chronic relapser and treatment resistant individual.” An avid animal lover and PADI-certified scuba diver, Lauren has been sober since 2011. She resides in Dallas, TX.
William Zaney, LCDCI
William Zaney, LCDCI
Biz. Dev. Representative
William Zaney, LCDCi has over 3 years of experience working in behavioral health and is currently a Business Development representative for Renewal Lodge. William is a licensed therapist and is pursuing a Master of Science in Healthcare Administration at Texas Tech School of Health Professions. His previous roles within the organization include Admissions Specialist, Counselor, Director of Utilization Review and Discharge Coordinator. William is happily engaged to fiance, Erin. He enjoys spending time on his farm and going to the movies whenever possible.
Julian Duran
Julian Duran
Nat’l Biz. Dev. Representative
Julian Duran serves as National Business Development Representative for Burning Tree Programs. By educating families and providers on the unique program offered at Burning Tree Ranch, Julian seeks to create as many opportunities as possible for the chronic relapser. Prioritizing open-mindedness, teachability, and faith as the foundational principles of his own recovery, Julian helps our network of community partners continue to grow on a daily basis. Counted amongst his favorite hobbies are weightlifting, reading, dancing and service work. Sober since 2012, Julian resides in beautiful Arizona.
Eric Button, PRSS
Eric Button, PRSS
Sr. Biz. Dev. Representative
Eric Button serves as Family Liaison & Sr. Business Development Representative for Burning Tree Programs. A customer service expert, Eric unites our families with the clinical process at Burning Tree Ranch, introducing each family to the support, education, and resources available throughout their loved one’s treatment process. As an alumnus, he shares his personal recovery story throughout the United States, helping connect as many families as possible to the wide network of professionals who, like Eric, are dedicated to improving the lives of others. An avid aircraft enthusiast and aviator, Eric has been sober since 2005. He and his fiancé reside in Austin, TX.
Sally Lebeau
Sally Lebeau
Admissions Specialist
Sally serves as a dedicated Admissions Specialist for Burning Tree Programs. An alumna of Burning Tree Ranch, Sally believes that “by aiding our clients and families in the process of finding a program that best fits their needs, I get to play a small part in helping them accomplish a life beyond their wildest dreams.” Sober since 2005, Sally has over 5 years experience working as a professional in the treatment industry. She believes in the virtues of honesty, integrity, and compassion. Happily married, Sally enjoys the beach, reading, and eating her favorite icecream with her husband, Matt.
Alexis Thomas
Alexis Thomas
Admissions Specialist
Alexis “Lexi” Thomas serves as Admission Specialist for Burning Tree Programs. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Public Health from the University of Arizona, Lexi lends passion, knowledge, and insight to the admissions process. Treating every inquiry with a sense of tenderness and empathy, Lexi knows first-hand what the family member’s experience of addiction feels like. After losing her own family member to addiction, Lexi dedicated her life to helping others find the freedom they deserve. A native of Tucson, AZ., Lexi is happily married and mother to her newborn, Otto. She also counts one dog and a cat amongst her growing family.
Sarah Adams
Sarah Adams
Admissions Specialist
Sarah serves as a dedicated Admissions Specialist for Burning Tree Programs. Known for her compassionate and insightful nature, Sarah is often one of the first friendly voices a client or family member will engage. “I like to meet people where they are at, listen and learn. It is always an inspiration to get to be the outstretched hand that someone is reaching for in need.” With a degree in biology from Stephen F. State Austin University, Sarah is constantly seeking to expand her education. Most recently, she has begun pursuing her counselor’s license. In her free time, Sarah enjoys reading, traveling, exercising and exploring the great outdoors.
Erik Jokinen
Erik Jokinen
Admissions Specialist
Erik serves as a dedicated Admissions Specialist at Burning Tree Programs. Being in long-term recovery himself, Erik enjoys helping families and individuals find the same freedom that he and his loved one’s discovered on their shared journey to wellness. With over 8 years of professional treatment experience, Erik’s favorite part of his career is getting to support those in need as they engage in the inspirational process of asking for help. Erik has a 4-year old daughter, one dog and two cats. When not working, he enjoys spending time with his family and attempting to be decent at golf.
Olivia Wilder
Olivia Wilder
Director of Admissions
Olivia Wilder serves as Director of Admissions for Burning Tree Programs. Responsible for helping execute the organization’s vision of excellence, Olivia leads a talented team of admissions specialists dedicated to Burning Tree’s philosophy of “creating a life of excellence beyond sobriety.” Trained in multiple intervention disciplines, Olivia utilizes mindfulness, DBT skills, and a solutions-focused approach to help achieve dynamic results on behalf of the loved one in need. Sober since 2014, Olivia is a proud alumna of Burning Tree Ranch. She counts her two children and loving husband amongst her greatest blessings. Her intervention training includes a specialization on Drug and Alcohol and Applied Suicide.
John Bruna
John Bruna
Director of Mindfulness
John Bruna serves as the Chief Clinical Consultant for Renewal Lodge. He is a counselor, educator, former Tibetan Buddhist monk and current mindfulness teacher. Raised in a low-income environment where he was surrounded by drugs, alcohol, and violence, John was able to find recovery and change the course of his life at the early age of 22. John is the creator of the Mindfulness in Recovery (MIR) Program and co-founder of the Mindful Life Program.
David Elliot
David Elliott
Founder & President
David Elliott serves as the Founder and President of Burning Tree Programs. Responsible for architecting the vision of the organization, David’s chief mission is to promote lasting change in the lives of those suffering from chronic relapse. With a hands-on approach, involved presence, and unyielding commitment to excellence, David serves as the heartbeat of our organization’s steadfast commitment to long-term, progress-based treatment. “My favorite part of what we do is to witness the evolution that individuals undergo during the course of treatment at Burning Tree.” An avid dog lover, Mr. Elliott resides in Dallas, TX. He has been sober since 1992.
Brook McKenzie, LCDCi
Brook McKenzie, LCDCI
Chief Operations Officer
Brook McKenzie serves as Chief Operating Officer for Burning Tree Programs. Based at the Ranch facility in Kaufman, TX, Brook plays an everyday part in the lives of our clients and families. His leadership style is informed by his own experience as a Burning Tree Ranch alumnus. With compassion, understanding, and a deep insight into the mind of the chronic relapser, Brook gets to engage in the healing experience of every family that Burning Tree serves. Happily married with two young boys, Brook enjoys fatherhood, sobriety, and all the wonders of living a full life in recovery.
Tharin Smith
Tharin Smith
Dir. of Aftercare Services
Tharin Smith serves as the Director of Alumni Services at Renewal Lodge. He is responsible for engaging our alumni and facilitating Big Book group daily. He is a product of long-term treatment himself for 14 months. Tharin has maintained his sobriety since 2005 and remains active in the 12-Step community. From embracing and working this “new design for living,” he has committed to helping others and entered the treatment field in 2012. He continues to carry his enthusiasm for recovery in an effort to give hope to all clients at Renewal Lodge. In his spare time, Tharin enjoys family time with siblings, nieces, nephews and great nieces and nephews. His hobbies include growing datil peppers and making datil pepper jelly, along with a quest to find the world’s best barbeque.
Chance Lippert, LCDCI
Chance Lippert, LCDCI
Dir. of Recovery Services
Chance Lippert serves as the Director of Recovery Services at Renewal Lodge. He is a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor Intern and Certified Mindfulness In Recovery Facilitator. William incorporates his knowledge of 12 step recovery and mindfulness practices to help clients establish recovery by helping them stay engaged in a new way of life. Chance is also responsible for organizing alumni sweat lodge events. William has been sober since November 2018 and found his way into the addictions treatment field shortly after. Chance is happily married with two daughters with whom he lives in Austin, Texas.
Kristi Miles, CCMI
Kristi Miles, CCMI
Medical Assistant
Kristi Miles serves as a Medical Assistant for Renewal Lodge. She has been a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant for 9 years and has worked in various specialties during that time. Some of these include pediatrics, internal medicine, psychiatry, and rheumatology. She has worked in the substance abuse treatment field for almost 6 years. Kristi is currently working towards her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and hopes to finish by 2024.
Cynthia Singer, MS, LCDC
Cynthia E. Singer MS, LCDC,
Primary Counselor
Cynthia Singer serves as a Primary Counselor for Renewal Lodge. She has a Master’s of Science degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Nova Southeastern University and a Bachelor of Sciences in Family Studies and Human Services from Kansas State University. Cynthia is a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor and is EMDR trained. Cynthia utilizes the therapeutic modalities of CBT, Motivational Interviewing, EMDR, and Solution Focused Therapy. Her passion is being a catalyst for change within her clients as they pursue their recovery and other therapeutic endeavors.
Auryana Malek, FNP
Family Nurse Practitioner
Auryana Malek serves as a Family Nurse Practitioner for Renewal Lodge. She has an extensive healthcare background and a passion for providing compassionate care to patients of all ages. Skilled in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), primary care, psychiatry, addictions, and MAT. Strong healthcare services professional with a Master’s degree focused in Family Nurse Practitioner from The George Washington University. Auryana maintains passion for providing holistic quality healthcare to all populations, especially those struggling with addiction.
Doug Wade, LMFT
Doug Wade, LMFT
Family Program Director
Doug Wade, LMFT serves as the Director of Family Programs for Renewal Lodge and Burning Tree West. Clinically trained in Marriage and Family Therapy, his commitment to helping individuals and their families is evident as he works to nurture families in their burgeoning recovery. Using a strengths-based approach to the Family System, Doug engages each member with the intention of creating a safe place for relationships to heal. His unique approach to each family has been regarded as a highlight of their recovery. Doug holds a B.S. in Family Studies and Gerontology and a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy.
Aaron Ball, RN
Aaron Ball, RN
Director of Nursing
Aaron Ball serves as the Director of Nursing for Renewal Lodge. He has been an Registered Nurse for 12 years and has worked in many different specialties. He has spent the last 5 years working across the entire spectrum of the substance abuse treatment field and has found a passion for working with those that struggle with addiction and alcoholism. His own personal experience with recovery has granted him a unique and valuable perspective that allows him to serve this patient population most effectively.
Mark Muecke
Mark Muecke, LMSW, LCDCI
Primary Counselor
Mark Muecke serves as a Primary Counselor for Renewal Lodge. He received his Master of Social Work degree from the University of Houston in 2019. Mark also received advanced training graduate of the Dallas Psychoanalytic Institute-Academic Track. He also holds a BS in Mathematics, BA in History and a Master’s degree in Journalism and Public Affairs. Mark is also a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor Intern. Mark utilizes the therapeutic modalities of Psychodynamic Therapy, Motivational Interviewing and CBT. He has a passion for utilizing empathy and respect to help clients gain insight to support long term recovery.
Melissa Rivera, MSN, RN, PMHNP-BC
Psychiatric Nurse Prac.
Melissa Rivera serves as a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner for Renewal Lodge. She is a board-certified Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, licensed and trained to treat behavioral health concerns across the lifespan. Melissa graduated with her Master’s in Nursing from The University of Texas at Austin where she completed a scholars program in Integrative Behavioral Health. Melissa is trained in multiple therapeutic modalities including: psychodynamic psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, play therapy, and motivational interviewing. Before her entry into nursing she received her Masters in Counseling and worked as a Licensed Professional Counselor in the Austin Area. Her experience as a LPC spanned from working with severe mental illness through the local mental health authority doing community-based outreach, working with adolescents in the juvenile probation system, as well as working with families and children who were victims of abuse through the Child Advocacy Center in Travis County. Melissa’s approach to treatment is to work collaboratively with her patients to support their treatment goals with evidenced-based practice, while fostering an empathetic and non-judgmental environment.
Brent Thach
Brent Thach, BA, LCDC
Clinical Director
Brent Thach serves as the Clinical Director for Renewal Lodge. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from West Texas A&M University, is a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor, and a Certified Mindfulness In Recovery Facilitator. Brent’s utilizes the therapeutic modalities of REBT, ACT, and mindfulness practice. Brent’s area of expertise is teaching our clients how mindfulness and the 12 steps complement one another in recovery. His leadership style encourages clients to learn how to live mindfully and a life of purpose guided by their values. Brent also has 11 years of sobriety and resides in Elgin, Texas.
Philip Hensarling, LCDCi
Philip Hensarling, LCDCI
Executive Director

Philip Hensarling serves as the Executive Director of Renewal Lodge. Philip has served Burning Tree Programs for over 6 years which roles include Admissions and Corporate Director of Utilization Management. Philip is also a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor Intern (LCDCI) and alumni of Burning Tree Ranch. He is also pursuing his Bachelors of Healthcare Administration from Southern New Hampshire University. Philip specializes in insurance contracting and negotiations. His goal is to make quality treatment more accessible to those suffering from the disease of addiction. He has a passion for running and loves his lab mix Murray.

Carlos Tirado, MD, MPH
Carlos Tirado, MD, MPH
Medical Director

Dr. Carlos Tirado serves as the Medical Director for Renewal Lodge. He is board certified in general and addiction psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and addiction medicine by the American Board of Addiction Medicine. Dr. Tirado attended medical school at The University of Texas Houston Health Science Center and completed his residency in general psychiatry at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Dr. Tirado received specialty training in addiction psychiatry and research at the internationally prestigious Center for Studies on Addiction at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Tirado is trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing.

Peter Piraino, LMSW, LCDC, LISAC
Peter Piraino, LMSW, LCDC, LISAC
Executive Clinical Director, CEO

Peter Piraino, LMSW, LCDC, LISAC, serves as Executive Clinical Director for Renewal Lodge and CEO of Burning Tree Programs. Responsible for executing the vision of Burning Tree’s philosophy of excellence, Peter’s primary goal is to help as many clients as possible gain access to the treatment they need. A clinician by training, Peter incorporates sound, ethical business practices to help inform the organization of its duties to the greater community. By placing the needs of his staff and company ahead of his own, Peter leads with a team approach that continues to inspire the mission of Burning Tree Programs. A proud father, Peter and his wife count six dogs amongst their family members.

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