Women In Wellness: Briana Severine of Sanare Psychosocial Rehabilitation On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
… Making meaningful CONTRIBUTION is important part of maintaining our mental wellbeing. What social causes are important to you? What organizations are in line with your values? Research and develop a way to regularly contribute to them whether that is with finances, time, skills, or other resources.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Briana Severine.
Briana Severine, MS, LPC, LAC is a psychotherapist and founder of Sanare Psychosocial Rehabilitation in Denver, Colorado. Briana has dedicated over 20 years of her career to the mental health field, and her dream to build an organization that would support those with chronic and persistent mental illness. Sanare’s vision is to empower people to live happy, healthy, connected lives.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I have my Bachelor of Liberal Arts in Psychology from the California State University Long Beach and Master of Science in Developmental Psychopathology from the University of Reading, England. The University of Reading is ranked in the top one percent of universities worldwide and allowed me the opportunity to do some research in the area of trauma. I have a post-graduate certificate in Psychosocial Rehabilitation from Boston University as well as some advanced training in modalities such as CBT and Brainspotting. I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado and a Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner through the US Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association.
I began my career with a passion for chronic and persistent mental health and worked at three different inpatient psychiatric facilities in Southern California. I worked as both a psychiatric tech as well as a Case Manager in these hospital units. I had the opportunity to work with a multidisciplinary team with psychiatrists, medical doctors, nurses, social workers, and other professionals and learned the importance of working as a team and integrating multiple perspectives as well as getting a great understanding of chronic and persistent mental illness.
Following graduate school, I then found my role at the Life Adjustment Team in Marina del Rey, California where my passion for psychosocial rehabilitation was started. LAT was one of the first companies in the country, who was doing PSR in a private setting. I learned and have integrated into my own practice the Life Adjustment Teams model of 7 Domains, 7 Principals, and 7 Needs.
I moved to Colorado and continued my work with folks in this capacity in private practice for several years. I was then recruited to work for Elements Behavioral Health, a nationally known and respected leader in residential treatment. At the time, they operated programs such as Promises Malibu and The Ranch. As a National Director of Clinical Outreach this allowed me to support families and clients who struggled with mental health or SUD to find residential treatment to support their journey to recovery. This also allowed me to forge strong relationships with local and national programs and providers. I also served as a founding volunteer to create 5280 High School, a Denver Public School that has a Recovery Program for those youth struggling with substance use and mental health.
Following this, I moved over to Director of Marketing and Admissions at Women’s Recovery, a premier trauma-integrated Intensive Outpatient Program. Here, I was able to continue those relationships with providers across the country as well as continue to help clients and families develop the most appropriate treatment course. I also served with the leadership team to help develop the clinical programming and help grow the company to expand the reach of helping women.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
While working as a psychosocial rehabilitation practitioner early in my career, I had the honor of working with a woman who was facing having her home repossessed by the state due to it not meeting health standards. This woman had diligently been going to individual therapy multiple times per week for close to a decade. During this time, she was hoarding to the point that her house was unlivable. After a very successful career early in her life, she had not resumed working. She rarely left her house other than to go to therapy and had no friends or other meaningful relationships. Despite having immense financial resources, she was often eating out of tin cans and purchased new clothes to wear to her appointments because her washing machine hadn’t worked in years.
Armed with the tools that I had learned in PSR, myself and her other mental health team member went to work rebuilding her life. Over time we were able to save her home, get her re-engaged in meaningful part-time work, and she began to dance again, which fulfilled her passion and allowed her to connect with others.
-Through this experience and many other similar experiences, I was inspired by the change that people can make with the right amount of support.
-For people that struggle with more significant mental health disorders, the typical “prescriptions” of care are often not enough. All the counseling in the world doesn’t change lives if people don’t know how to apply them or follow through on them in the real world.
-Healing and transformation happen in the context of safe, supportive, therapeutic relationships. Ultimately, to reduce shame and propel growth people need to be seen, heard, and valued for who they are.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was working at a psychiatric hospital and a woman was admitted following multiple suicide attempts and experiencing auditory hallucinations (hearing voices). This woman previously lived a very successful and connected life working as a dentist. She had been married and raised children without any prior history of mental health issues. Most of the members of the treatment team automatically assumed and diagnosed her with schizophrenia, due to her family having a history. A spectacular general medicine doctor came onto our unit and started asking questions, “Has she had an MRI?”, “Where are her labs?”, “Has anyone examined her and done a full medical workup?”. Other members of her treatment team seemed skeptical and had their minds made up to recommend her to a long-term psychiatric facility. This doctor kept advocating, pushing for medical testing, and found that this woman had several tumors in her brain.
The lesson that I learned from this early career experience was the value of staying curious. No matter how many times we have seen a “situation”, making assumptions without thorough investigation can lead to decisions that impact other people’s lives. Sometimes the questions that cause other people to roll their eyes are the very ones that need to be asked.
Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
I founded Sanare Colorado, a mental health agency that specializes in psychosocial rehabilitation. We work with adults that have more moderate to severe mental illness in their homes and in the community to support them to learn to live happy, connected, purposeful lives. The individualized mental health care we provide helps them to create strategies for success, learn independent living skills, find effective coping for their symptoms, follow through on tasks & responsibilities, as well as support them to more successfully fill their social, familial, and vocational roles.
What I know to be true is the person who is living with the mental illness is not the only one impacted by their disease. They have mothers, fathers, siblings, partners, children, and others around them who also experience fear, pain, and loss to see them struggle. If during my career I can positively impact a couple thousand clients, my hope is that it continues a ripple effect into their larger families and communities and potentially impact tens of thousands of people.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
I learned from my mentor Pete Linnett that we all have seven basic needs to be happy and fulfilled.
-It is important to have things to look forward to, increasing VARIETY in your life. Have one small thing each week planned to look forward to. This could be coffee with a friend, getting your nails done, or going to your favorite dog park. Once a quarter, plan a larger event that will spark joy. This can be a concert, tickets to an art fair, or your favorite sporting event. Once a year plan a vacation, road trip, or staycation to mentally unwind.
-Equally important to having a variety of things to look forward to, we need CONSISTENCY in those things that help maintain our physical and mental health. What areas of your life do you avoid, that have a negative impact on you? Opening your mail, paying your bills, getting to the gym regularly? Make an accountability plan to follow through on just one of those areas for the next 30 days and see how your stress level can decrease.
– CONNECTEDNESS is a vital part of us being social animals. Who is the one person in your life that you haven’t spent one-on-one time within a few months? Reach out to them and get some time on the books!
-GROWTH is an important part of maintaining our wellbeing. What is one thing that interests you that you have been too afraid to try? Join that hot yoga class, take a lesson in pottery, or go to a local meetup group.
-Making meaningful CONTRIBUTION is important part of maintaining our mental wellbeing. What social causes are important to you? What organizations are in line with your values? Research and develop a way to regularly contribute to them whether that is with finances, time, skills, or other resources.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Breaking the stigma of mental health. Having a therapist, psychiatrist, or other type of mental health provider should be as normal as having a dental cleaning each year!
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
-It won’t always be easy, but it will be worth it. Taking on a career in a field like mental health means that you will be in touch with the true suffering in life. But this career also offers the opportunity to see transformation, healing, and rebirth as well.
-Never stop learning. There is no right or wrong answer in most of mental health and we are always developing new treatment methods to help people. It is a field that requires continuous growth to stay relevant.
-Always ask “what else?” What are the things that you haven’t thought of? What else can be done? If we are asking “what else?” we can reduce the risk of missing important parts of an equation.
-Put your oxygen mask on first. You can’t take care of others if you aren’t well. Working on your own physical and mental health is not a luxury, but a necessity in the field.
-Trust the process. We don’t often understand why something unfolds the way it does, or why a person makes a choice that they do. Trust that their journey is as it should be and there might be a reason that we don’t yet see.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Getting mental healthcare to as many people as possible can reduce social problems such as homelessness and incarceration. Stigma around mental health is at the root of many other problems we consider “social”.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights!
Women In Wellness: Briana Severine of Sanare Psychosocial Rehabilitation On The Five Lifestyle… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.