Our Team

Our TeamClinical Director

Serenity Grove was founded in Athens, Georgia. Our treatment center was born under the clinical direction of co-founder Karen Skinner, MED, GCADC III, who has over two decades of experience in the field of substance abuse recovery. Prior to channeling her passion for addiction care into the founding of Serenity Grove, Karen helped hundreds of hurting and hopeless addicts and their families find hope and recovery.  

Today, Karen’s vision and commitment is as strong as ever. She continues to extend her therapeutic talents and hand of hope to those seeking treatment and recovery. Serenity Grove is fulfilling her life-long dream of providing a continuum of care with a personal touch. Under the medical direction of Dr. Farris Johnson, Karen has assembled a stellar team of addiction professionals who assist addicts and alcoholics along their journey to find a new way of life!

Medical Director

A member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, Dr. Patt Brooks has served as the Medical Director of Serenity Grove since March 2017.

Dr. Brooks received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1976 from The University of Georgia. In 1980 he earned his medical degree from the Medical College of Georgia.  Dr. Brooks completed his internship and residency in Internal Medicine at Memorial Medical Center in Savannah, Georgia. He is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Brooks has practiced at Athens Internal Medicine since 1983, where he is the founding partner.  He has served as the team physcian for the University of Georgia football team since 1989.


Dr. Mark Brechtel, a licensed psychologist, earned his PhD in psychology from the University of Florida in 2003 and now has over a decade of experience in addiction treatment therapies and modalities.  He has been with Serenity Grove since our beginning.

Dr. Brechtel believes, first and foremost, that individuals are unique. His philosphy is based on the premise there is no single approach that is the 'correct' one for everyone.  He matches his work to each client's unique style and needs  He doesn't expect the client to come to fit into any preexisting theoretical mold. Second, Dr. Brechtel understands that each individual has a diversity of aspects - thoughts, feelings, beliefs, behaviors, relations, histories, goals - and that these cannot be meaningfully separated in therapy any more than in life. His goal and approach is to understand who you are and how you live, where you come from and where you'd like to go - how you think, feel, believe, act, and interact with others, and to find the best way he can help you live the best life possible with the substance use challenges.  Dr. Brechtel can assist individual clients, couples, and families with a broad spectrum of mental health issues.

Dr. Brechtel is a lover of nature.  In his spare time, he enjoys travels to remote places, and photography of the cultural aspects and natural wonders each locale presents.  He has a particular fondness for SCUBA diving and underwater photography.


Jay Veal, CRNA, MS has been a healthcare chief executive since 1998. He founded Serenity Grove in 2015. Mr. Veal holds a Bachelor’s degree in economics from The University of Georgia, a nursing degree from Athens Area Technical College, and a Masters of Science degree from California University of Pennsylvania, with a specialty certification in nurse anesthesia from The Washington Hospital in Washington, PA. Mr. Veal first entered the field of addiction by founding and operating a sober living community in 2009.  Today, Mr. Veal has created the opportunity to expand the service offerings of the firm to include a professionals program for addiction treatment located in the beautiful and serene Lake Oconee area of central Georgia. Jay is the proud father of two boys, Max and Clark. Jay and his sons make their home in the heart of Athens.

Clinical Supervisor  

With over 30 years of experience, Jim Daniel is a veteran in the field of addiction medicine and substance abuse treatment. He is grateful to have learned from many of the pioneers, as this profession was born. He has had the opportunity to work in all areas of addiction medicine. Jim has worked as a therapist, clinical director, trainer, educator, and interventionist. He developed and implemented the first Substance Abuse Aftercare Services (SAAS) Program for the state of Georgia. He also developed and provided substance abuse services in the Savannah Impact Program (SIP). Jim Daniel and his wife, Joan, make their home in the greater Athens area. At this phase of his career, Jim is excited of working with the team at Athens Addiction Recovery Center and Serenity Grove to provide a path to healing and recovery from addiction to patients, families, and the community.  

Licensed Professional Counselor

Kendall P. Weinberg holds a master’s degree in Community Counseling from the University of Georgia. Kendall is the past WRC Director at MARR Women’s Recovery Center. Kendall enjoys working with groups, individuals, and their families to facilitate empowerment, incorporate the principles of recovery, and create a balance in physical, spiritual and emotional health. Kendall has fifteen years of experience helping others discover or rediscover the innate strengths that will allow them to align their beliefs, emotions and values for a more fulfilling life. She has a calm, centered demeanor, which creates a space for openness and acceptance. In her spare time, Kendall enjoys reading, watching college football, freshwater fishing, writing, and traveling with her husband.  She also participates in local women’s book and writing circles.  She has been a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Georgia since 2006 and maintains membership with the Licensed Professional Counselor Association of Georgia.

Addiction Counselor  

Mike Bowden has been involved in substance abuse recovery and counseling for over a decade. During that time he has assisted clients in developing strategies to manage stress, identify values, set goals, and achieve their full potential. His approach to counseling is collaborative and strength-based, employing modalities from CBT, Motivational Interviewing, and 12-step programs, incorporating community resources whenever beneficial and feasible. His breadth of experience as a counselor has given Mike strong interpersonal, motivational, and behavior change skills. 

Mike loves living in the northeast Georgia area. States Mike, “There is nothing better than Saturday afternoon in Athens watching college football with family and friends, and being a part of an incredible recovery community. “ 

Social Worker  

Originally from North Carolina, Nora Blankenship came to Athens to attend the School of Social Work at The University of Georgia and obtained her Masters in Social Work in 2007. In addition to her specialty in addiction treatment and services with Serenity Grove, Mrs. Blankenship’s social work experience is diverse including child protective services, homeless outreach, and hospital-based social work. In every setting, she has seen the devastating effects of substance abuse. Nora’s body of work has ignited her passion for fighting the disease of addiction. She is also a loving mom who in her free time, enjoys taking walks with her son Asher, and gardening.   

Registered Nurse 

Dana Bour, RN, a Rhode Island native, moved to Georgia in 1979. She has been a nurse for over 30 years, over a decade of which has focused on work in addiction care. As a registered nurse at Serenity Grove, Dana is passionate about helping others break the cycle of addiction. When not pursuing her work in addiction nursing, Dana enjoys gardening and the art of pyrography. She displays her work at a number of art and crafts festivals throughout the southeast. Dana and her husband Tom, also a registered nurse, have three grown children and three beautiful grandchildren. 

Recovery Coach  

John Marr, with 35 years of personal sobriety, is no stranger to helping others both find a path to sobriety and learn to live useful and happy lives without a need for mood-altering chemicals. John has completed training for Certified Addiction Counselor I, and also completed trainings for level I & and level II of the Prime Solutions recovery curriculum.