A View From the Watchroom
Barry K. Wyrick, MS, MBA
Chief Operating Officer
Introduction to this Blog and the Author (7/26/13)
As I begin to post to this blog, I believe it is necessary for me to introduce myself to those who are reading this, as my experiences may explain many of my thoughts that will be shared here. My name is Barry Wyrick, and I currently am employed as the Chief Operating Officer of Lighthouse Addiction Services (an outpatient substance abuse treatment program in Southwestern Florida) and its parent company, Halcyon Management Group. I have a background as a provider of counseling services and as a manager in human service agencies. I have masters degrees in Community Counseling and Business Administration.
I guess the interesting part of my journey starts with the beginning of my college career. I attended Northwestern University on an academic scholarship, with an education plan directed toward a career as a physician. But fairly soon, I became much more interested in Chicago than in school, and after my first year at Northwestern, the administration gave me a very nice letter inviting me not to return (I humbly tell people that I have failed out of one of the best colleges in the country). I returned home to Cincinnati, Ohio, and enrolled in the University of Cincinnati, but continued with my fascination with cities and the underbelly of society, including the many substances that the residents of this part of our society are want to use. After a year of this activity in Cincinnati (and another nice letter from a college administration, but this time just warning me), my dearly beloved brother grabbed me, shook me not so gently, and told me I was wasting my life. I never went back.
I graduated from the University of Cincinnati four years later with a degree in Psychology, because the actions and motivations of people have always fascinated me. I worked at a boarding school in Southwestern Kentucky (home of the still active Baker-Howard feud), bought a farm, worked as a mental health associate in a day treatment program, and went back to school to earn my masters degree in Community Counseling. I was a counselor in a community mental health center and then in an intensive in-home family counseling program. Then I managed an outpatient substance abuse treatment program, an in-home family counseling program, and an outpatient mental health center, and went back to school to earn my Masters in Business Administration. I moved from the Chief Executive Officer of a Community Mental Health Center, to the County MH/MR Administrator for the capital county in Pennsylvania, and then semi-retired to the state of Florida, which brings me to where I am now.
At this later stage of my life, I have available to me (or am burdened by, depending on which day it is) a massive amount of clinical experience with clients with a wide variety of concerns and an equal amount of business management experience ranging from private human service agencies to governmental bureaucracies. I am equally at home counseling a client through the pain of opiate withdrawal as I am spending hours developing management accounting reports.
I wanted to put a little bit of content in this first entry so that it is not just all about me. A dear friend of mine, who at the time was the President of the Pennsylvania Community Providers Association, had a favorite saying–“There is no mission, without margin.” One of the struggles that many counselors and many counseling agencies face is how to balance the mission of helping people with their problems and running a business. To understand the breadth of the divide between those two goals, just remember how you felt when you read that I had masters degrees in Community Counseling and Business Administration. Those of us who approach human services from the helping side are motivated and rewarded by the impact that we have on the lives of others, and we struggle with making people (who may already be struggling financially) pay for the services. Those of us who approach human services from the business side are motivated and rewarded by the financial success of our organizations, and we know that unless the payroll is made and the rent payment is cleared, we can’t provide any services and are no good to anyone.
The roots of this struggle can be traced to the development of the counseling profession. One part of the counseling profession traces back to the early practitioners, who were medical doctors. Our society has placed great value on physicians, and no one is offended or surprised when you see the sign in your doctor’s office that says “payment is expected at the time of service.” Doctors are held in high regard and have a value where we expect them to be well paid. The other part of the counseling profession traces back to early school counselors and social workers, who were government employees who were paid whatever the governmental agency decided to pay them. Working within the schools but not as educators, the school counselors were not even held in as high of regard as the teachers were (just put a picture of Mr. Mackey from “South Park” in your head). While social workers have been seen as devoted helpers, they are also reviled in their roles with state child welfare agencies. And so our society has been conflicted about the value that is placed on counselors and counseling, but we are certainly no rock stars, matinee idols, or professional athletes.
We’ll stop here for this post, and next time, I will come back and talk about how this societal ambivalence effects the individual counselor in his or her professional development.
I’ll be back soon. Talk with you later.
*The Watch Room is the room beneath the Lantern Room in a Lighthouse.