Mike has over 35 years experience in management and business development. Along the way he’s worked in politics, and been a chef, a restaurant owner, a teacher, and coach. He credits his role as an advisory board/mentor at Sabin Skills Center, where he taught and coached students seeking an alternative education through the Oregon Restaurant Association’s Pro-Start Program, as the deciding factor in becoming a counselor.
Mike currently serves as Director of Clinical Services at Cedar Hills Hospital, which he says is very challenging on a daily basis, but he also finds it incredibly rewarding and humbling to have his employer’s support of his clinical vision. In addition, Mike has a private practice, Wise Counsel and Comfort, in Multnomah Village, where he treats Individuals, couples, and families.
How did your work at the GSE help you reach your professional goals?
During my career as a chef/restaurant owner I was asked to mentor the culinary program in the North Clackamas School District. I had the opportunity to work with a few modified diploma kids, who responded amazingly well to having individualized, strength-based coaching. This opened my eyes to how effective experiential cognitive restructuring could be. From a social learning perspective, these kids began to change their view of themselves by having successes in the program. This in turn changed their classmates’ view of them and the change cycle was in place. One of these kids actually came in third place in an interschool baking contest. The next week he showed up with a pierced ear and some streaks in his hair, a sign that his view of himself in the world was changing.
This and other similar experiences convinced me that counseling was the path I would choose. My education at PSU allowed me to backup my prior experience with sound clinical theory and practice, which then allowed me to serve more than just a few kids.
What has proven to be the most useful thing you learned while at the GSE?
PSU has two counseling clinics open to the community in which graduate students gain experience treating clients, under direct supervision, prior to starting an internship. This was an extremely valuable element of my education because I felt much better prepared to start seeing clients in an independent professional setting.
What is the accomplishment in your career that you are most proud of?
Instead of speaking of accomplishments, I would instead like to speak of certain moments. These are the moments in which your client gets that look on their face that tells you they have had an epiphany that will lead to positive change. The first time someone tells you that you saved his or her life is an extremely powerful and humbling moment.
The GSE strives to make an impact on our community through the work of our students, faculty, and alumni, what does the term “impact on the community” mean to you?
I would define this as “Modeling positive change and empathic awareness on a daily basis.” During my first run at college when I was much younger, I remember being given the assignment to come up with a personal mission statement. My classmates and I wrote lofty statements about saving the world while not yet having the experience to realize just how vast an undertaking this would be. Studying family systems theory and applying this in practice gave me the opportunity to realize that each of us can change the world by bringing positive change to even one person at a time. This has become my personal mission statement.
We can volunteer, donate time and money, support political candidates whose message of change you share, teach others but most importantly to paraphrase Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see.”
How do you try to incorporate this concept into your daily work?
In my work at the hospital I try to model and teach the belief that all human beings, given the opportunity, will try to strive to be the best they can. This means recognizing our tendency to try to right every wrong, and instead help to empower clients to right their own wrongs. It means empowering my staff to use their skills to motivate and encourage proactivity in our clients and start a wave of positive change.
In my private practice I offer a sliding fee scale with the goal of making counseling more available to those with limited funds.
Did you have a favorite course/professor/project while at the GSE?
Each of my professors/mentors had a unique impact on me. I credit Dr. Russ Miars for recognizing the path I would succeed in and steering me in that direction. It was not obvious to me at the time, yet it led to my current position.
What advice would you give students currently enrolled or recently graduated?
Keep faith that you will find your path, even if you have to experiment a bit. Stay open to new experiences and learning opportunities and take full advantage of your professors and advisors. Your experience will be what you make it.