21 Nov Meet Michael Barnes, Chief Clinical Officer
When did you realize you wanted to focus your work on addiction and trauma?
When I was in my Masters Program at the University of Pittsburgh, I was given an assignment to do a presentation on Employee Assistance Programs. After completing the presentation, I was approached about doing my internship at the EAP at the Homestead Works (Steel Mill) of the United States Steel Company. I knew that I had addiction in my own family and had taken a course or two on addiction, but was really introduced to addiction treatment while there. I knew that I wanted to have a career as an addiction professional after completing that internship.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in this work in the last 10 years?
There are two substantive changes over the last 10 years. The first is in the awareness of trauma as a significant co-occurring issue that needs to be addressed in order for individuals and families to fully recover from addiction. I’ve been very involved with the development of trauma integrated addiction treatment and I speak on this topic around the country. The second is the increased awareness of the need for longer-term treatment. The focus on Recovery Oriented Systems of Care, that promote treating addiction as a chronic illness, rather than the 30-day treatment programs that treated addiction as if it was an acute illness. One of the things that drew me to the Foundry was the continuum of care that included transitional living, PHP, IOP, and Outpatient treatment!
What advice do you have for someone who is unsure about entering residential treatment?
You are not alone in your fears. While many individuals seek treatment to deal with significant consequences of their addiction, everyone who enters treatment comes with a significant amount of fear and uncertainty associated with the issues that they will have to confront, the feelings that they will have to experience, and the relationships that they will have to heal and rebuild!
What would surprise most people about residential treatment?
This is a more complex question than it appears on the surface. It often depends on how old the person is when they enter treatment, their experience of addiction treatment by parents, siblings, or other family members, how long they have been living within the culture of addiction, and how many times they have been in treatment. I think the thing that is most surprising for first time treatment seekers is how collaborative and experiential treatment actually is. Many people enter treatment believing that they will be brain washed with the 12 steps or forced to believe that they are powerless to alcohol or drugs. If they can get past their preconceived beliefs and defensive avoidance of their situation, they can begin to recognize that treatment is a very comprehensive process that works with each individual’s addiction as a bio-psycho-social-spiritual issue. Recovery isn’t something that can be given or bought. We ask them to be open to the process and to experience treatment.
What are you most proud of about your work?
I am most proud of the breadth and depth of the career that I have been able to build over the past 35 years, as a clinician, teacher, writer, program developer, etc. I am proud of the work that I have been able to do in terms of researching family trauma and in the development of trauma integrated addiction treatment programs. I am eternally grateful for the opportunities that I have been given to work in treatment centers, hospitals, and universities, and to have the good fortune to meet and work with some of the most incredible therapists, thought leaders, and program administrators.
Favorite spot in Steamboat?
I’m so new to Steamboat that it is hard to have a favorite spot. My first thought is how much I enjoy the Ranch and the incredible 360 degree view that I see each day that I am in that healing space.
Last book you couldn’t put down?
To be honest, I can count on one hand the number of pleasure books that I’ve read since graduating from Florida State in 1995. The books that I have been drawn to are autobiographies. I couldn’t put down autobiographies written by Graham Nash and Greg Allman and I’m having the same experience right now with Bruce Springsteen’s!
What makes you happiest?
Spending time with my family. We moved to Colorado from St. Pete, Florida in 2010. All three kids were still in college in Florida and Oklahoma and we were not sure if any of them would follow. However, it has worked out perfectly. Two of our kids are firmly settled in Denver and one is in grad school in Boston. She is pretty adamant about getting back to the mountains as soon as possible after finishing her program. We also have two grandchildren (9 months and 4 months) that we just can’t get enough of!