Minnesota Alternatives provides adult outpatient mental health and/or substance use treatment and consultation services that focus on engagement, skill development, personalized interventions, neuroscience and healing trauma. The program uses many state of the art interventions including mindfulness meditation, imagery, motivational enhancements, cognitive behavioral strategies, and multiple trauma therapies.
The program specializes in serving people who experience both substance use issues and mental health problems and is enrolled with the Department of Human Services as a provider of Co-Occurring Services. However, a mental illness is not required to be eligible for services.
People use substances for different reasons and it is important to understand the motives underlying substance use. Understanding and addressing these motives can help people develop alternative ways to meet their needs. We help people define their own vision of recovery and provide individualized and practical help so that people can make different choices and improve the quality of their lives.
Minnesota Alternatives understands that everyone is an individual and strives to address the unique needs of each person, versus a one-size-fits-all approach. The program recognizes people are at different levels of readiness for change and will work to provide interventions that meet people where they are at. While abstinence may be the goal for the majority of clients, the program uses a harm reduction approach and embraces the full range of harm reducing goals. Small, incremental, positive changes are seen as steps in the right direction.
The program does not use a 12-Step model, but it does support and encourage clients who find this approach helpful, and can easily integrate step work into individualized treatment plans.
To read a recent interview that Paula DeSanto, MS, LSW, CPRP, CCDP-D Founder and President of Minnesota Alternatives gave Addiction Blog, please click here.
Who We Are
Paula DeSanto MS, LSW, CPRP, CCDP-D
Paula is the founder and president of Minnesota Alternatives, a unique outpatient program providing substance use and mental health treatment through person-centered principles and interventions. Paula’s Master of Science degree is in Psychiatric Rehabilitation from Boston University. She is a Licensed Social Worker as well as a Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner and a Certified Co-Occurring Disorder Professional-Diplomat.
In her role as outside consultant and trainer, Paula is often invited to speak to both professional and consumer audiences about alternative approaches to substance use disorder treatment and harm/risk reduction. She also serves on the Anoka County Directors Network, and the Medica Community Advisory Council.
Paula has developed programs that serve adults with mental health and/or substance use issues for more than 25 years. She has worked in a variety of settings that include intensive residential and outpatient treatment, case management, and community support. Previously, she worked at Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center bringing progressive, person-centered care into a medical setting. She was a program director for Diane Ollendick-Wright – working with her for 11 years and she also directed programs for 9 years for People Incorporated.
John Bollig, R.N.
John Bollig has worked as a registered nurse for more than 40 years, 36 of them in behavioral health nursing. At Minnesota Alternatives – through a pilot project with Medica Healthcare – John provides mental health and substance use disorder counseling, primary care coordination, and intensive community outreach and support for high-risk clients with severe substance use disorders. John’s goal and interests in working with clients are to assist them in stabilizing their lives in the community and in becoming self sufficient – establishing a trust-based relationship with clients and significant others.
John’s secondary focus is to initiate and utilize comprehensive care coordination with clients and providers to insure that biological, psychological, sociological, and spiritual aspects of services are provided in a manner comfortable to clients and involving them as the primary participant in the process. His previous work experiences include creator and manager of the Hennepin County Street Case Management Project as well as of the Behavioral Health Department for Hennepin County's HMO Metropolitan Health Plan. He also served as director of nursing for a residential substance use disorders program. John has won multiple prestigious awards in behavioral health. He attended Normandale Community College, the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis), and Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Barry Brandt, MH Practitioner, Peer Specialist
Barry studied at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis before beginning a career as a mental health practitioner in St. Petersburg, Florida. His work experiences during this time were in residential treatment and day activities programs and included case management and vocational job development for clients transitioning into community employment.He recently completed training with Minnesota Recovery Connection as a peer recovery coach.
Barry uses his experience as a mental health practitioner and peer recovery coach training to provide support to clients in group settings as well as one-on-one support. His focus at Minnesota Alternatives includes helping clients incorporate the skills they are learning in treatment into their day to day lives. Barry enjoys music, nature and mountain biking.
Peter Bruhn, MPS, LADC
Peter has a Master of Professional Studies degree from within the Integrated Behavioral Health program at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities. This program is uniquely designed to train students as both chemical health and mental health counselors. He is currently a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC) and is working towards licensure as a Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC). Peter also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin—Madison.
Peter believes that all individuals possess an inner resilience and strength that is often overshadowed by mental health and substance use challenges. He enjoys collaborating with clients to identify and tap into those parts of themselves that can bring about the changes they want to see in their lives. Peter has a special interest in Mindfulness concepts such as acceptance, impermanence, and self-compassion, as well as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Susan Bushek, MPS, LADC, LPCC
Susan holds a Master of Professional Studies degree from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and was the first student to graduate from their Integrated Behavioral Health Program. At Minnesota Alternatives, Susan does substance use disorder and mental health counseling, individual therapy, diagnostic and substance use disorder assessments, and acts as our Intake Coordinator. With her special interest in trauma therapy, she is certified in Prolonged Exposure Therapy for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and is also trained as a level I and II EMDR therapist. She offers therapy at Minnesota Alternatives for those who struggle with past trauma.
Susan received her License in Alcohol and Drug Counseling (LADC) after completing internships at Mission Detox Center in Plymouth, MN, and at Minnesota Alternatives. She also completed a mental health internship at Minnesota Alternatives and is now a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC). With a double major in neurobiology and psychology,
Susan received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Previously, she was involved in research settings as she completed her degrees.
Anne has a Master of Science degree from Drexel University in Philadelphia and bachelor’s degree from Cornell University, both in nutrition science. Earlier in her career, she provided nutrition and behavioral counseling to clients with weight problems in an outpatient setting. She went on to write 6 books on nutrition and weight management, including the Thin for Life books, as well as 2 books on addiction and recovery.
She spent nearly a decade researching addiction treatment and recovery for her award winning books including Inside Rehab (Viking Penguin, 2013) and the New York Times best seller Sober for Good (Houghton Harcourt 2001.) Through her extensive study of the addiction treatment system, she became inspired to work in the field and went through Progressive Recovery Coach training, as well as attended a CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training) workshop with Robert Meyers, Ph.D. With a mental health professional, Anne co-leads our family support group. She also facilitates long-term peer support groups and leads some skills groups for clients in treatment.
Krissa Jackson, MA, CPRP
Krissa has a Master of Science degree in Counseling Psychology from the State University of New York at Albany. While in the counseling program she took part in an additional vocational rehabilitation track. She is also a Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner. Her clinical internships were at a traumatic brain injury hospital and at a community counseling center. Her bachelor’s degree is in psychology from Iowa State University.
At Minnesota Alternatives, Krissa does mental health and substance use disorder counseling as well as individual therapy. She has a special interest and training in somatic experiencing, which is a form of therapy aimed at relieving and resolving the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental and physical trauma-related health problems that focuses on the client's perceived body sensations (or somatic experiences.) In addition to serving as a mental health counselor, Krissa previously was the clinical supervisor of an intensive residential treatment program for women, a drop-in coordinator, a community support specialist, and a housing support specialist – all positions in which she worked with clients experiencing mental illness or co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorders. She has been working with our director, Paula DeSanto, in various settings for 15 years.
Allie Chapman, MA, LMFT
We’re delighted to have Alexandra Chapman complement our staff as a contracted outpatient mental health therapist for individuals, couples, and families. She received her M.A. degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from St. Mary's, University of MN and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT.) Allie’s clinical training included working as an eating disorder technician at The Emily Program, in-home and school-based therapist at FACTS (Family and Children's Therapy Services), and day treatment therapist at LifeSpan in Shoreview, MN. She has worked in a variety of settings such as in-home, community, school, day and residential treatment. She is also a Level I and II trained EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapist.
Allie works with a variety of mental health concerns, life transition, and family issues. She also specializes in working with people who experience co-occurring disorders (substance use and mental health) and uses a person-centered approach accepting a full range of goals from abstinence to harm and risk reduction. See her profile listed at https://therapists.psychologytoday.com/255850
Allie is currently accepting new clients and offers flexible daytime and evening hours. She accepts Medica, UCare, Preferred One, Health Partners, and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Those without insurance coverage can contact Allie to discuss private pay options at Allie@mnalternatives.com or 612-567-6305.
Todd Ostertag, BS, LADC
Todd is a licensed alcohol and drug counselor (LADC) who works through Minnesota Alternatives with a pilot project for Medica HealthCare, serving people with serious substance use issues, many of whom also experience mental illness and medical problems. His special interests and skills are substance use disorder assessment and counseling, community-based interventions and long-term support, care coordination, skills development, and crisis management.
Todd values the opportunity to work with people in their living environments and assisting them with multiple needs. He greatly appreciates the person-centered approach used at Minnesota Alternatives and the opportunity to attend primarily to the person rather than to his or her symptoms or diagnosis – avoiding the traditional therapeutic stance of neutrality in favor of one that’s more engaged and compassionate. Todd has a Bachelor of Science degree in Family Social Science and an Addiction Studies Certificate from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. He has also worked as an LADC at Minnesota Alternatives outpatient program, where he did his internship.
Megan Wagner, MPS, LADC
Megan is a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor who also completed the Master of Professional Studies in Integrated Behavioral Health program at the University of Minnesota as she continues to work towards becoming a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor. With an extensive background in adult education, Megan previously worked for two years in the Minneapolis Public Schools with non-native English speakers and for six years with adult learners obtaining their GEDs. Megan's obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Secondary Health Education from Augsburg College in Minneapolis. She did her internship for becoming a LADC at St. Josephs in St. Paul and at Minnesota Alternatives.
Susie Pierce, BS, Peer Specialist
Susie has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Superior. She’s worked for over 25 years in financial services. Susie was also a volunteer at Crisis Connection as a phone counselor and she has worked with developmentally disabled adults before coming to Minnesota Alternatives, Inc. as a Peer Specialist in the Peer Support Center. She recently completed training with Minnesota Recovery Connection and is currently a Telephone Recovery Support volunteer there.
Susie uses her prior experience and peer recovery coach training to lead peer support groups as well as one-on-one support to clients that access the Peer Support Center.
Anita Raaum, MAT, LADC
Anita holds a Master of Arts in Teaching degree from the University of St. Thomas, and a Master’s Certificate in Addiction Studies from the University of Minnesota. She completed her LADC internship at MN Alternatives. She earned her BA in History from Augsburg College, and is a certified “authentic” yoga instructor. She has more than 25 years professional teaching experience. Anita believes that a strong adherence to the client-centered approach in treating co-occurring disorders facilitates lasting and meaningful change. She utilizes educational, motivational, behavioral, and mind-body strategies in working with clients. Her philosophy includes harm-reduction, radical acceptance, forgiveness, self-compassion, and impermanence.
Having spent 4 months living and studying at a Thai Theraveda Forest Monastery in New Zealand, Anita is uniquely qualified to teach mindfulness and has been a practitioner for 14 years. Thai Theraveda Buddhism is the tradition from which Vipassana or "mindfulness" meditation is derived. Anita is a teacher for the Mindfulness, Recovery, and 12 Step community at Common Ground Meditation Center. She leads weekly meetings, half day retreats and recovery yoga classes there. She also teaches a weekly recovery yoga class at Region’s ADAP men’s residential treatment facility.
Jill Sweeny, MSW, LICSW
Jill has worked in mental health settings for almost two decades with much of her career focused on high-need clients. One of her early jobs that has helped through her entire career was to support and care for clients to prevent them from returning to the hospital and so they could remain in the community to better facilitate their healing. She holds a master’s degree in social work and is a licensed independent clinical social worker. As a therapist, she specializes in helping people with trauma and substance use disorders. She has special training in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Jill received her bachelor’s degree in the applied science of psychology from the University of Minnesota-Duluth and did two internships, one in an inpatient setting and the other in day treatment. She received her masters in social work from the University of Minnesota, Duluth and did her clinical intern hours at Health Services in the university counseling department. (There, she worked with young adults facing challenges related to stress, depression, substance misuse, and sexual violence.) She went on to become clinical supervisor at a residential program for women with mental health and substance issues. She has been working with our director, Paula DeSanto, in various settings for 15 years.
Robin Sydor, BFA, AA
Robin keeps everything and everyone on track as the office manager at Minnesota Alternatives, where her skills as a certified life coach often come in handy. She oversees all administrative functions including accounting, claims processing, account receivables, payroll and human resources.
Her background in interior design, (not to mention her previous experience as a clothing designer for some impressive companies) are obvious in Robin’s influence in the warm and arty décor at Minnesota Alternatives. Her numerous culinary awards inspire the wonderful lunches she provides for clients and staff. Robin has also been an ergonomic/medical device designer - she happens to hold at least a dozen patents!
David Woolley, BS, LADC
David is a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC) dedicated to providing client- centered care in an integrated fashion. He works closely with his clients to develop individualized treatment plans that place an emphasis on each client’s unique needs, desires, and life circumstances. David provides both individual and group counseling services, and he facilitates a weekly men’s group that focuses on issues that tend to be unique to men. Using techniques from mindfulness meditation and cognitive-behavioral therapy, David places an emphasis on helping his clients learning how to lead fulfilling self-directed lives.
After 20 plus years in sales and marketing, David decided to pursue a career that was more personally fulfilling. He is nearing completion of his Master’s degree in Integrated Behavior Health at the University of Minnesota which is moving him toward becoming a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC). He received his Bachelor of Science degree In Multidisciplinary Studies from the University of Minnesota, and this degree concentrated on coursework in psychology and spirituality.