Home > insanity, work > An interview for a human services class

An interview for a human services class

Looking back over my posts I have really only posted about work. I use my blog not just for public education and edification but for my own researches to be able to put stuff together at home and access it at work. Some of it is pretty popular as well. I hope to put something together this weekend about my experiences with the low car challenge and just talk about something else besides work. My big take home is that I have been working too much and its starving the rest of my life of space. Eventually I will have to deal with that. With that being said a co-worker recently interviewed me for her class on Human Services and I decided to re-post it here. I considered putting in a little edit here and there and then decided to just let it be. Every summation of anything has some possible inaccuracies and I like the thing as a whole. My story is so long and complicated I was most interested in how someone else would wrap it up. Here it is:

For this assignment, I interviewed Michael Trapp, Senior Counselor for Phoenix Programs, Inc., in Columbia, Missouri.  Mike has a masters degree in Sociology and holds a RASAC II certificate (Registered Associate Substance Abuse Counselor II.)

Mike has been in the human services field for approximately 20 years.  He has worked in a variety of places including: domestic violence shelter, group homes for mental, physical, and/or developmentally disabled persons,  activist for environmental issues, and was also a case worker for the project the began studies to legalize medicinal marijuana in California. Mike has worked with a variety of different people and problems during his career and wears quite a different hats within his personal and professional life.  He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after working in human services for 7 years and has also become an ordained minister.

Mike currently provides individual counseling, group education/counseling services, supervises clinical staff, provides mental health specialty services to a special needs population with issues of complexity.  Mike says “we try to address all issues as primary because they are interconnected”  As far as dealing with people with disabilities, “you don’t have to be an expert on that person’s disability, you just have to be willing to learn.  They are experts on their situation, let them teach you.”  Mike went on to say that it it good for human services workers to have some basic understanding of persons with disabilities because they will always be there, in every avenue that you could ever work in, they will be there and they will need help.  “People feel validated if you know something about their disability, but being willing to learn is the next best thing, I always try to do a bit of homework prior to a session with someone with a disability so I have a basic understanding and it enables me to get a better understanding of where they are.”

One of the biggest challenges and needs is case management because they have specialized needs and services that are required to help them maintain their independence and it takes more effort and time to provide those services, but it’s very rewarding when you are able to help someone.   Another challenge is being able to effectively communicate with those who are deaf.  Deaf clients are more concrete and do not thing in the abstract, they are used to nodding and indicating that they understand as it is what we expect, however they generally don’t understand everything.  In sessions, with interpreter present a deaf client will only pick up about 50% of the information.  It isn’t the interpreters job to make sure the client understands, they are there to interpret.  It is our job as human service providers to help them understand and to check in with them during the session or conversation to ensure that they understand what is going on.  Deaf clients, and autistic clients as well, do not think in words, they think in pictures.  So, when explaining something, it is better to paint a picture of what you are describing rather than try to explain that same thing with generalized words.  Additionally, it is important to explain words and teach vocabulary when possible.  You have to talk on the level of the client, without talking to them.  Don’t talk above their head, as they won’t understand and you won’t be effective.

I asked Mike about his own dealing with being diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and how it has affected his career.  He said that he felt he was a really good counselor prior to “going insane” although, after he was able to come to terms and handle his disorder (and has since been able to self monitor and cope without the use of medications through different coping techniques and self realization techniques) that he became a better counselor!  He admits that he did not freely disclose to his employers of his diagnosis as he didn’t want to be labeled or feared being written off if he became too emotional.  However, he did reveal his diagnosis to clients as it helped validate him.  He could honestly say that he understood the disorder and what a person was dealing with.  He says that he is an expert on his own diagnosis and that even his doctors will admit that they don’t know as much as he does about the disorder.  He lives it and feels it everyday, they only know what they have been taught.  So, it is easier for clients to relate to him when they find out that he is dealing with a mental disorder as well.

I have known Mike for over 3 years and was shocked when he revealed his disorder to me over 2 years ago.   My prior experiences with persons with bipolar disorder had tainted my view of the disorder and honestly scared me a bit.  I have to say that I would have never known that Mike had bipolar disorder had he not told me.  He has led quite an interesting life, is highly intelligent, a great role model, advocate, and a great friend.  He treats clients with respect and dignity and goes the extra mile to help everyone he possibly can.  He has changed my views of the bipolar disorder and continues to amaze and surprise me with his efforts and creativity.  As I stated before, Mike wears many hats both personally and professionally, and I would have to say that he falls into all 4 categories of functions of human service providers; teacher/consultant, broker, activist, and counselor. I have personally witnessed him taking active rolls in all 4 categories, however if I had to pick the strongest, I would have to probably pick counselor, although it is a hard call with the way he encompasses all aspects of a clients needs by providing advocacy, support, resources, general assistance, counseling, teaching, etc.  I feel I am really lucky to work with such a person!

Here are the responses from classmates/instructor:
Student 1: Very nice interview.  I too will be going for my RASAC II once I get my degree in December.  It sounds like he is a very dedicated HSP.  We need more of those who are in it not just for a paycheck, but also for helping those individuals that really need it.  I it is also nice that he can understand where consumers are coming from as he has a disability as well.  I’m sure that his dedication and faith also helps him through his work and life challenges.  Great post!!

Student 2: I am so glad that your opinion of him did not change when you found out that he had a disability.  Many people would have begun to view him differently.  (My response to student 2) My opinion of him did not change – although my opinion of what bipolar was all about did!

Student 3: Laura, your interview was inspiring and from what you have written , Micheal sounds very comfortable in his own skin in the profession.

Instructor: I love his advice for working with Deaf consumers!  (My response to instructor) Thanks!  I thought this was really important to share!  He referred to it as if one were translating a foreign language and how so much gets lost in the translations as our words are not the same.  I thought that was a great analogy!

Instructor: Yes, And I think it’s helpful to know that even with the use of a qualified interpreter, there still may be issues lost in translation.  There are very real and significant communication barriers between the Deaf and hearing individuals.  And, because of the historical discrimination and mistreatment, many Deaf people are very suspicious and distrusting of hearing people.  They may feel that they are ‘missing’ something or being scammed/taken advantage of.

Student 4: He made some important statements about being in contact with pwd in almost all areas of life. Its good to have some idea of the different disabilities, but also be able to have an open mind about learning and listening to get an idea of the best help that can be given.

Student 5: Laura. It sounds as though mr. Trapp has his plate full, I have a lot of respect for any one who works with drug or alcohol rehab programs, addiction is a hard thing to quit.

Laura Cameron

Categories: insanity, work
  1. October 2, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    Hey, Mike. I can see why you would be happy with the interview summation…it is always nice to be validated in our actions and beliefs. It was a nice write up and you deserve it.

  2. brendalkelley
    October 7, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    mike what a great writing. i learned a lot. i am so happy i choose not to take medicine. i decided to follow in your footsteps!!!
    one thing addiction is never gone it must be treated daily for the rest of our lives.
    i belive it is only through our Higher Power, that i’m free of addiction, for today. each day i must treat my illness. it’s a illness that only My Higher Power can treat if i let Him/Her (as i like to call my Higher Power.) i am free just for today.
    thank’s for telling your story.

  3. October 7, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    thanks brenda and john. i almost didn’t post this and in fact deleted it from my facebook wall so it wasn’t as accessible. i’ll pass on to laura that you enjoyed the writing.

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