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Mary: Welcome to “The Voyage” a podcast for women touched by recovery. I’m your host, Mary Foster and today with me is Brenna O’Brien. Brenna is the director of clinical consultants for JourneyPure. Thanks for coming.
Brenna: Thanks for having me.
Mary: So, if you don’t mind, tell us a little bit about what you do?
Brenna: Okay. So, I am, again, the director of a clinical consultant team at JourneyPure. And basically, what they do is they go into clinical settings and they do mobile assessments, as well as little bit of case management, and they transition patients from a clinical setting to JourneyPure if it’s an appropriate placement. If it’s not an appropriate placement then we assist in getting the patient to a different level of care or a different facility.
Mary: How did they know to contact you?
Brenna: It’s kind of an interesting role. So, a lot of what we do is going into the hospitals and educating on the fact that, yes, we do mobile assessments, like a lot of other [inaudible 00:01:09] facilities do. However, what’s different about us is that we’re all licensed clinicians. So, when we go in to talk with the patient, it’s a lot with the intention that, “Okay. We’re trying to make sure this person is appropriate, but then also educating the families and educating the hospital staff as to why this person does and should go to treatment, whatever level of care that may be. So, while what we’re doing is going into the hospitals, building relationships with physicians, case managers, therapists. And then they are comfortable in sending us referrals, they know the client is gonna be taken care of.
They know the patient’s families gonna be taking care of, and they know kind of what clinical services they’re referring to. So, some of it is, you know, this is development-oriented if you will, but the rest is clinical, so we can use skills like motivational interviewing and really help the client work through any kind of denial, and getting them to the next step which, hopefully, it’s treatment.
Mary: That’s so cool. Did you go to school for this skill, like college?
Brenna: I did. So, I’m a licensed clinical social worker. So, I have my undergraduate and my master’s degree in social work. I went to the University of Tennessee and actually Stan McMaster was one of my professors in graduate school. So, I’m always known him and respected him in his work in research, but it’s funny because when I went into this field, it was with the intention of working with children and adolescents. So, that was always kind of the population that I was very passionate about. Well, when I was in my master’s program, we have opportunity to do an internship. And the internship that was available was with a local psychiatric facility. And, you know, the field placement instructor basically said, “This is a really great opportunity. You don’t wanna miss it.” So, I jumped onboard and did my internship at a psychiatric facility. And I worked on a dual diagnosis unit, which I end up really loving, and it was in the adult population.
And when I graduated, they offered me a job and they said, “You know, we want you work on a dual diagnosis unit. Nobody wants to work on that unit.” And I said, “That’s perfect because that’s the only unit that I wanna work on. And the reason for that is because I come from a long line of addicts on both sides of my family. So, I think for me, it was just a very natural fit and I just kinda felt like, “Hey, these are my people. I feel very comfortable interacting with them.” So, I eventually, you know, was the social worker over that unit, which I did for five years prior to joining JourneyPure.
Mary: Awesome. Why do you think people didn’t wanna work there, is it so hard, like the [inaudible 00:04:00] rates, it’s just so hard to find success or even…
Brenna: Yeah. I mean, I think that has a lot to do with it. You know, people think there’s no hope. They’re just gonna relapse. They don’t actually get better. We see the same patients over and over and over again. But, for me, you know, that’s not what this field is about. For me, it’s about meeting a client where they are a patient, where they are, and working with them from there. So, whether that means they’re coming in seven times in a row before they actually decide they want to make a change. That’s fine. I’m gonna meet them there. That’s what I would want someone to do for me. And I think, too, it’s a different type of communication with this population. You have to be very willing to be upfront and just be very brutally honest in the situation, and for a lot of clinicians or therapist, that may be is uncomfortable, at least in an acute setting, where you don’t have as much time to build a rapport. You really have to be willing to sit down with someone and say, “Hey. Like what’s going on? What do we need to do different?” And confront the issue almost immediately.
Mary: What’s the schedule like? So, a typical person would work Monday through Friday and like business hours. Is that you or do you have to work, if you work outside of that?
Brenna: Yeah. So, with my team there has to be a lot of flexibility involved, you know. When I hire someone on, I let them know upfront, “Hey. You don’t really know what your schedule’s gonna look like today.” So, you know, they may wake up and have three assessments scheduled maybe at a hospital or with the private practice clinician and they kinda know what today’s gonna look like or maybe they wake up and they’re working on, you know, several pending admission cases. And so, you know, they’re talking with families or they’re referring someone to a different facility. They’re doing some case management. But, yeah. I mean they never know what their day’s gonna look like. Typically, hospital hours so, seven to four is when we’re the most busy, but again, now, there are these conversations, phone calls in the evening. If an emergency department calls us and they need our assistance, my team will jump in the car and go. So, there has to be, you know, flexibility and willingness to just jump in the car and go when you’re needed. But, there are pros to that as well, and when they’re not doing the assessments, you know, they’re out talking to physicians and clinicians, and, you know, building those relationships or managing their relationships that they have.
Mary: How educated are doctors and emergency room staff in this field?
Brenna: Yeah. That’s a great question. So, when the referral is coming from the behavioral health facility, they are more educated on substance abuse in the levels of care that are appropriate. Again, with that, it depends on the physician, you know, whatsoever biggest referrals are addictionologist because they truly do understand and they’re educated. So, they’re the ones that are more so pushing for someone to go to long-term treatment. Emergency departments and other settings, it’s kind of a whole another world to them. So, in those settings, we really are educating, “Hey. This person does need a resident or hey this person, you know, let’s start them out at [inaudible 00:07:31] of our patients. See how they do because in these settings they’re kind of going, “I have no idea.” I just know that they’re reporting years and they don’t need to be in the emergency room.” So, it just depends on the setting. A lot of the educating that we’re doing is with the family. But, then you know, a lot of it too is the JourneyPure clinicians. So, we may, you know, send in our referral with an assessment that we think is IOP and they may say, “No. I think this person is a little bit more acute. Let’s start them out with the residential level of care.” So, I’d say it’s a team effort. It depends on the setting.
Mary: That’s great because it’s more like individually and I know people hate to hear case by case basis, like they just want all the information upfront. But, it really does sound good.
Brenna: Individualized, for sure.
Mary: So, outside of your day job, what do you do for fun? Like what are your hobbies?
Brenna: My hobbies, so I love to dance. So, anything that I can do dance-wise makes me happy. I recently have been taking a swing dance class, and a salsa dancing class, which is really, really fun. I do a lot of yoga, hot yoga is my favorite. I went yesterday, and it killed me, it was awesome. And I also I’m a high school cheer leading coach for a local high school. They just asked me to do that, and that’s the high school I went to. So, I’m really excited to go back. I’ll be doing that a few days a week with them. So, again, that gives me that adolescent population. It’s very good to really do both of my passions.
Mary: And tell me about your time being an NFL cheerleader? How long did you do it for? What was it like?
Brenna: So, I was an NFL cheerleader for one year. And it was really an awesome opportunity for me because I was kind of in at transitional phase of my life. And I just woke up one day and I said, “You know, I want to do something that’s just for me. And I wanna do something that’s really challenging, something to put myself out there that I maybe wouldn’t normally do.” And so, I just started training, and I showed up, and made the team. And I had a really great year. It was one of those things where, you know, I did it for a year and I’ve got back when I wanted to get out of it. And so, you know, it kind of lined up and let me write into a position with JourneyPure and say I really wanted my focus to be here. Being an NFL cheerleader, they say it’s a part time job, but really it’s a full-time job. It takes all your time and all your attention, which, again, is really awesome. But, I wanted to solely focus on how my career went along, what my long-term goals were. But, to be an NFL cheerleader to me is about being surrounded by really strong and smart women.
I think that cheerleaders get a bad rep, you know, people think, “Oh, there’s nothing to them.” But, for the organization that I was a part of, you know, you have to be educated and, you have to have a career, and you had to be motivated and driven, and well-spoken, and a good example to young girls. So, I really loved being a part of that and being a role model.
Mary: And it seemed like a lot their mission is being in service too, which is funny just based off of your job. Like, I noticed there, I mean, yeah, you’re doing all the games and all the performance aspects, but also there’s a lot of service, it feels like.
Brenna: Yeah. Absolutely. We did have service hours and we’re always giving back to the community and being part of the community. And even still to this day, it’s really great because, you know, I can advocate for the addiction and opioid epidemic through kind of my background, you know. People are always encouraged to hear like, “Oh, this person that was a professional cheerleader was with the NFL.” This is something they really care about and so, it gives me a platform to speak on something that I’m passionate about. So, I love that. It kinda gave me that segue way.
And it’s so cool too because a lot of people, I mean there’s like a stigma surrounding addiction, but also like the treatment of addiction, there’s like a lot of shady providers out there. So, it’s cool to be able to be a voice for like actual successful treatment and with that looks like it can also be a woman doing it because, like I know for me, this office is predominantly…
Brenna: Male. I think about that all the time.
Mary: And especially in a director role. So, you’re a director.
Brenna: I’m the only female director. Yeah.
Mary: That’s why I was going to ask. So, it’s super cool to have just have it be put it out there in that light as like a friendly approachable way to talk about it. So, one thing that when we were trying with Cynthia a few weeks ago, people who are in service a lot, which it sounds like you are, you’re always working to take care of other people. A lot of times don’t find time for self-care. What does self-care mean to you and how do you practice that?
Brenna: Yeah. I mean, for me self-care is really just a combination of a lot of different things. Self-care, to me, means living out my values the things that are important to me. So again, I do a lot of yoga, still exercise a really big thing for me, dance, which is that passion, I have got to make sure that I’m doing that in some way shape or form. Also, like to take care of myself physically. So, I’ll go get my nails done, get my hair done, those types of things. But, I’m really big on self-care and my team knows that. Especially being licensed clinicians, we are much more likely to burn out. And so, I just have kind of an open policy with them like, “Hey. If you’re struggling, please come to see me. Let me know if you need to take a day, take a day.” And they know they can do that and we do that often. So, I mean, self-care to me is an everyday event.
Mary: And then like caring about all of your fitness is something that I loved too. Have you ever tried boxing?
Brenna: I did. I did try boxing once. It wasn’t my favorite, but it was…
Mary: I super love it. I like got into by sort of this is true. Following like all the supermodel Fitstagram. They’re all like, “Oh, boxing in NYC.”
Brenna: I have a lot of friends that I used to jeer with do the boxing, and they love it. I have anxiety, myself, so, yoga just does really, really well for me.
Mary: Yeah. Well, and that’s important too because I know it’s something that JourneyPure publicly declares, like an importance on, you know, fitness, nutrition, sleep, like things that go with holistic health and more and more people seem to be adopting that, like in the addiction treatments-based because it is some studies have shown that it is as effective as medication in treating depression and anxiety symptoms.
Brenna: Absolutely. I mean, they say that, you know, for anxiety, that exercise is one of the best forms of treatment, but it’s the most underutilized. So, you know, if I’m out there selling that to people and selling our program in what we believe and what we stand for, I have to believe in that and stand for that myself.
Mary: I think it really, I love it. And it seems like fitness is becoming more and more of a trend like it’s cool to be healthy, which is helpful to the cost. So, for your career and where you see yourself going, how long have you been in your current role and is this the top for you or you’re so young?
Brenna: So, I started my JourneyPure November 2016, so I’ve been here a little over a year and it’s really exciting to see the growth and the change. I think we really pretty much double since I started. So, that’s a really exciting thing to be a part of. And hopefully, this is not the end for me. I’ve always seen myself as being a career person. I don’t plan to ever stop working. What that looks like, I hope that I’ll be running this team for a long time, and I hope that my team will continue to grow, you know, I started a year ago, just myself, and I know have a team of five, about to hire two more. So, we’ll go from one to seven in a little over a year. And so, I want to continue to run this team, build this team, grow this team, make this team better, offer our services in more places. And, you know, I’ve always wanted to be in private practice and be a therapist,
I do a little bit of that on Saturdays on the side, adolescent females. So, I think my long-term goal would be to build out my private practice more as I’m more settled with JourneyPure and managing this team.
Mary: That’s amazing that you also do that.
Brenna: I know. I do a lot.
Mary: When you say it out loud, it’s like, “Okay.” So, if someone wanted to get started in the same industry, let’s say they had a passion, like working from a family of addiction were just really were touched by the space. How would they get started?
Brenna: I love that question, and I love that question because when I was a kid, I would tell, you know, my family or people what I wanted to do. And their response would typically be, “You don’t wanna really go in the helping field because you’re gonna struggle your whole life and like you’re not gonna be financially able to provide for yourself. And you need to think about maybe being a lawyer or being a doctor.” And, you know, as a kid that just didn’t sit right with me because I’m going, “Why are they telling me this? My heart tells me that’s what I wanna do.” And I found that…that’s not reality. You know, I think if you follow your passion, you follow where your heart is, and then the rest kind of will fall into place. So, I guess to answer that question wanted to be in a clinical role, you know, look at whatever clinical tracks you can take. For me, it was social work and I was able to get my master’s in five years so it really just kind of fit in with my time frame and it was a great local program. But. I have, you know, women on my team. I have LPCs that have laid ax. So, it really just kind of depends just looking at what programs are offered and what they stand for, you know, with social work. I love that route because they were so many different ways you could go with it. It wasn’t like a had to pick one population or one setting to work in for the rest of my life. You know, I’ve gone from a psychiatric in-patient facility to not working in addiction field and working with adolescents on the side. So, it gives just like a broad range of options and clients that I can work with.
Mary: Thank you so much for coming.
Brenna: Thank you for having me.
Mary: It’s been so great. Everybody, thanks for listening. And please be sure to rate and review the podcast with all the stars and glowing reviews. “The Voyage” podcast is produced by Todd Schlosser]. It’s the part of JourneyPure network. I’m your host, Mary Foster. You can find me online @maryelisefoster “The Voyage” podcast is there too @voyagepodcast so, follow us, like us, tell all your friends. Thanks.