Home > Uncategorized > The Confessions of Mike Trapp. Chapter XI: Columbia Career

The Confessions of Mike Trapp. Chapter XI: Columbia Career


Mike Trapp dont be a jerk

I moved to Columbia in January of 2016 and my friend Sarah Bantz said that I could sleep in her living room for a month.

I had $240 and a backpack and a duffle bag. For the first time in my life, I had difficulty finding a job. I’m pretty good worker. I’m a strategic thinker, I’ve learned a lot. I’m good at what I do. I’m not career-minded. I’m not afraid to work under my value. So I’ve always been able to get work really quickly.

When I moved to Columbia, I didn’t get a job until April. It took a personal connection because I was some guy from out of town. I didn’t have a real local connection. Up until this point, when I had applied for work, which had been a while because I’d gone through connections for the last eight or 10 years, but before that they were always looking at my resume.

People would say, “Oh my God, Mike, you’ve done a lot of stuff.” When I had this long string of 10 or 12, one to two year jobs I had assembled, people started to say “Man, you can’t hold a job.” I knew when I got a job that I would probably need to change my work plan. I also knew that when I got my first social work job, they asked me what my career goal was and I had said that I wanted to have 15 entry level jobs and I realized I had racked up about 13 of them maybe 12. I was burning through him and I knew I would needed to make a stand at my next job.

My roommates sister Amy Bantz got me a job at The Shelter, the local domestic violence shelter. I was their first full time male employee. I got a case management job there. It was just a great group of folks. There were these women that were all really strong and there was this great community and they operated according to a radical feminist consensus, although they were starting to change into your kind of standard hierarchically oriented nonprofit. That was the official structure.

I worked there for about a year and it was just a great experience. It was a great introduction to Columbia. I made a lot of great friends and got to do interesting work. Because I had a background with folks who had mental health conditions, I worked as a patient advocate mostly for women who were in the shelter, sometimes women who needed services like court support or stuff with ex partes.

We would do some safety planning and some folks with people who didn’t work out of the shelter. Primarily I worked with folks at the shelter and I worked with the survivors and family members who had a lot of substance use disorder and mental health conditions because that was my background and I had done domestic violence advocacy work and family preservation and I’d done batterer intervention. I was familiar with the standard model that the heart of domestic violence is power and control.

That’s something that nobody else in the social services environment specifically and especially in kind of any other environment besides domestic violence service specialists works from this idea that the heart of domestic violence is power and control. That resonates with the truth and that allows you to create effective modalities.

I worked with survivors doing safety plans and helping them get into housing and helping them with other kind of ancillary needs and the mental health and substance use disorders spheres. I got a reputation of being able to work with anybody. I was recruited to Phoenix Programs after I had been at the shelter for a little less than a year. The executive director really liked me at the shelter, but she knew that I had better in me and thought that this was a great opportunity. She recommended me for this grant funded position at Phoenix Programs running an assertive community treatment team, which is a team based approach for people with high need mental health issues and Phoenix programs as a stand-alone substance use disorder treatment. This was an experiment for them funded by the Missouri Foundation for Health who does these health special project grants. We had two years of funding to create an act team, which was kind of a new model because that’s advanced kind of mental health agency work being done by a stand-alone substance use disorder treatment took target folks who have co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.

It was part of a cohort of groups who were doing integrated mental health and substance use disorder treatment. And having that background of working with those two things from a context of domestic violence, I had this kind of holistic approach. I was team member and then just for a few months and then the person who was supervising the team left and then I took over kind of running the team. We had a lot of success and Phoenix programs was really interesting and that they were a 12-step oriented, almost Christian organization that had an abstinence-only approach. I had a very nuanced position towards marijuana for a substance abuse counselor. I had been a drug policy reform activist. I believed in the harm reduction model. I also believed in integrated substance use disorder and mental health integrating those two together.

We worked with these great consultants who were world leaders in that specialty. Ken Minkoff and Chris Klein. I got to work closely with them in a cohort of great practitioners from around the state. I really grew clinically in a powerful way. And after I’d been at Phoenix just running this kind of program as an uncredentialed person – I had a masters degree- I picked up a credential again, which I hadn’t had since I worked in Michigan. I was a social worker there. I picked up a credential as a substance abuse counselor.

When the grant funding ended, I went into the regular treatment environment and then I did a lot of training and I began to oversee training and become a clinical manager. I found substance use disorder treatment really fulfilling in a way that other work had not been in that it was overtly spiritual work. I had a spiritual approach when I would talk with my clients and the way they were open to that, I would definitely go there and try to engage spiritual processes and it could be really powerful for people who believe in that and to be able to do that openly as part of your model.

The other thing that I really got out of Phoenix Programs was the idea of working in an active spiritual program. Seeing people in recovery, learning the power of gratitude, I’m looking at 12 steps, which is a lot kind of like Wesleyan, the method that Methodists get their name from or discipleship from when I was a young evangelical.  This idea of where you’re at and making a daily assessment and trying to improve yourself every day and trying to have an active contact while you’re out doing good, that resonated with things that I believed in. I found that I was pretty good at being a substance use disorder counselor and then a supervisor of counselors and then ultimately the executive director.

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