Brittany Schank believes in authenticity.

As a trained social worker and therapist, she understands the power of genuine connection, especially when helping people overcome their challenges and heal. Brittany speaks frankly about how family members have dealt with various mental health issues since she was a teenager, and she learned healthy ways to cope with the chaos the issues caused. Born and raised in the Fargo-Moorhead metro, she has a brother two years her senior who was born when their mother was just 16. Being children of young parents presented certain challenges, but Brittany saw those as simply opportunities to be seized.

Called to serve

At 17, Brittany decided to enlist in the military, and she laughs about her own naivete now.

“I had little eyes and couldn’t see the big picture,” she says. “I didn’t have much wisdom, but I thought it was a great way to get out of the house quickly and pay for college.”

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The idea of being deployed frightened her, she says, but having a friend enlist and attend basic training at the same time reduced some of Brittany’s anxiety.

Now Brittany has the wisdom of nearly 14 years spent serving her country, and she is grateful for her hindsight.

“I serve alongside people I wouldn’t ever have met otherwise,” she says. “Every military member is protecting the United States, and that one person has touched the lives of everyone. Not everyone has the opportunity to do that, and it’s a beautiful and honorable thing and I’m so blessed for it … the military has given so much to me more than I could have imagined.”

Like, a husband.

The Schank family includes Behron, 3, Brittany, Paityn, 6, and Landon. Photo courtesy of Ten Little Chickens Photography
The Schank family includes Behron, 3, Brittany, Paityn, 6, and Landon. Photo courtesy of Ten Little Chickens Photography

Unexpected blessing

Brittany met Landon just one month before she left for basic training, and she had no idea where the relationship would go. But, he stuck around, attended her graduation ceremony once she’d completed her training, and “we’ve been together ever since,” she says.

That’s why her family doesn’t know anything but military life. Even as they added children — daughter Paityn is 6 and son Behron is 3 — Brittany and Landon have made adjustments as needed to prioritize family time without sacrificing their other commitments.

Brittany is honest about describing her fear of being deployed overseas to a combat zone, which hasn’t happened so far. She’s been deployed on other assignments that didn’t require her to be away for long periods of time, and when that happens, she and her family discuss things ahead of time and plan adjustments to spend quality time together when they can.

“My husband is the most sensible, easy going guy I’ve ever met,” she says. “Landon’s character is to just do whatever it is to make sure our family stays together, and he has a willingness to do things like bringing the kids around when I’m busy.”

In addition to her military commitments and young family, Brittany’s professional career keeps her plenty busy as well.

Finding her path and purpose

Brittany put her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from NDSU to use in a job where she first caught shoplifters but worked her way to a role where she interviewed people who had shoplifted or employees who stole from their company about why. It didn’t take long for Brittany to realize that path wasn’t right for her.

“It got to the point of someone stealing and then I would want to cry with them as I listened to their story,” she explains. “I knew that wasn’t the way I wanted my life to go.”

So Brittany enrolled in a social work program through Minot State University and went to work for Cass County Social Services as a foster care case manager for a year and a half before transitioning to a role as a therapist for kids in the system.

"Our worth is not rooted in the actions of others; it is rooted in ours.”"

— Brittany Schank

For four years, Brittany worked with foster children, relating often to many of the issues they encountered or feelings they had about what was happening in their lives.

“My brother went to prison when I was 16 years old, and I feared thinking we had similarities in bad ways,” she says. “I was scared my best friend’s family wouldn’t let me hang out with her because of what my brother had done. Now I know other people’s actions are not indicative of my character. Our worth is not rooted in the actions of others; it is rooted in ours.”

That wisdom — won through her own challenging experiences — allowed her to connect with foster children on an important level.

“These kids are fearful that they’ll be labeled this way or treated differently for the rest of their lives because of being in the foster care system,” she says. “We are all human beings with a story and pieces of our story are just things that happened to us.”

Those four years working with foster care cases offered Brittany a new appreciation for the work of therapists, which is why she decided to go back to school to become a therapist. After completing her master’s degree in social work through UND, Brittany decided to take control of her own life in a new way.

Brittany said her family loves spending time outdoors, especially at the lake in the summer. Photo courtesy of Ten Little Chickens Photography
Brittany said her family loves spending time outdoors, especially at the lake in the summer. Photo courtesy of Ten Little Chickens Photography

Offering solace, hope and healing

Because Brittany believes in authenticity, she decided to open her own practice where she could empower others to just show up as they are.

“My goal is to be authentically me so I go home feeling good about myself, but you also feel good about who you are as a human being,” she explains. “My hope is that people understand who they are going to see and expect to work with to make sure I’m a good fit for them.”

When Brittany first opened her practice in 2019, she wanted to make sure she was being genuine in her commitment to her family, so she deliberately blocked one day from her calendar so she could spend that time with her family. As she balanced her work and family life, she decided to take two days off and she’s able to maintain that strict schedule thanks to great time management skills and constant evaluation.

“I believe I’ve found the work I was meant to do, but the problem is that because I love the work I do, I can become inundated with that type of work or media, like crime shows and documentaries,” Brittany explains. “Sometimes I have to ask, ‘Am I doing that because I’m working too much or because I love it?’ ”

She knows an imbalance throws things off in both her personal and professional life, and she doesn’t want to risk a high cost in either of those areas of her life. Her understanding of her own non-negotiables allows her to understand how important maintaining balance is, and she knows she’s not the only working mother who struggles with the concept.

“We are willing to let ourselves down to please others, instead of the other way around,” she says. “I cannot care about what other people think, but instead need to do what feels right for me; I have to figure out who I am and what speaks to me.”

Living an authentic life requires work, but Brittany knows it’s the best way for her to find peace and contentment in this life. She’ll also tell you she and her family find happiness outdoors, because that’s where they can be found all summer at the lake.

But then again, any place she is connecting with her family is a place of happiness.

More to know about Brittany

She’s an author. Her book, “Narrating Audiobooks,” provides a step-by-step guide for narrating audiobooks. She says she shares mistakes she made so others don’t have to. One Amazon review describes her book as an “easy-to-read, education-filled book for anyone considering the possibility of narrating audiobooks” and gives “insight of what truly to expect.”

She fears public speaking. Even though she’s comfortable in one-on-one settings, being in front of any audience with people staring at her is a terrifying experience. She says she presents to military groups but it’s a different situation. She was asked recently to speak at an event, and she says she had to read from a script and tell the audience that if she passed out, they should just leave her on the stage.

She created a directory for other therapists. Brittany explains that a component of being a licensed therapist is supervision by others in a similar field, so she created a nationwide directory for others to use, which launched one year ago.