This month for our Clinician Spotlight, we spoke with Michael Hayes, LCSW-C. Michael is a veteran in the mental health field and one of the longest standing clinicians at Alpha Omega. We are very privileged to have him as part of our team.
Michael joined the Clinic in 2003, when it was still in its infancy. He brought with him a wealth of experience from his time as a clinician in New York City. He has continued to hone and develop his skills over the past two decades. A truly seasoned clinician, he is wonderfully thoughtful, humble, and well rounded. Not only has he held and maintained a variety of roles within the field, but he has also continued to nurture his love and respect for the human person. He sees Christ in his clients and works to help them find wholeness, regardless of what challenges they may face.
Background and Education
Michael was born and raised in Long Island, NY. The Catholic faith heavily influenced his journey towards becoming a therapist. Prior to starting college, he began discerning a vocation to the priesthood. It was during this time that he developed a love for the Franciscan charism, eventually crossing paths with Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R. Fr. Benedict invited him to join the staff of the Trinity Retreat House while he pursued his college degree. This would turn into a 15-year tenure, serving a pivotal role in his personal growth. When describing this experience, Michael said, “Even though I had eventually discerned that I was not called to the priesthood, it was almost like living the life of a religious which was crucial to my spiritual development”.
He attended Iona College in New Rochelle, NY and received his BA in Psychology and Philosophy. He went on to complete his master’s degree in Counseling at Fordham University. While pursuing his master’s, he interned at New York Hospital Cornell Medical Inpatient Psychiatric on the borderline personality disorder unit. He was trained in and taught DBT as an effective therapeutic model. His admiration for his colleagues and mentors would lead him to pursue his second master’s degree in social work at New York University.
A Career Defined by Continued Growth
After completing his MSW, he went on to work for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York. This is where Michael believes he really started his career, going from idealistic young therapist to seasoned clinician. He worked with a wide-ranging population (children to adults) with significant mental health struggles and traumatic backgrounds. Eventually, he was asked to step into a supervisor role at a new site in the South Bronx. This role would provide Michael with an opportunity to gain administrative experience in a challenging environment, setting him up for future managerial positions.
While he was working in the South Bronx, 9/11 happened, sending a shock wave through New York City. Michael volunteered to assist with the recovery effort and was trained by FEMA in crisis counseling. He said this training has been very valuable to him over the years, most importantly during his time in hospital settings. It was around this time that he met his future wife, who was visiting on retreat. Shortly thereafter, they started a long-distance relationship which would eventually bring Michael to the DMV. As he searched for jobs in the area, he connected with Art Bennett, the founder of Alpha Omega Clinic. He was intrigued by our mission and started working part-time for Alpha Omega Clinic after securing a job at the MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center.
Upon reflection, Michael pointed out how God was working in his life; creating an arch that would land him where he is today. His time in New York prepared him to provide quality treatment regardless of the setting. He has gone on to have a long and successful career with MedStar where he has worked with those suffering from chronic, severe, mental illness. He is currently working as a psychotherapist and Supervisor, overseeing a full staff of psychotherapists. During this time, he has dedicated nights and weekends to help us further our mission of providing excellent mental health treatment that is informed by the fullness of the Catholic faith.
A Dynamic and Eclectic Approach
Michael is passionate about changing people’s perspective on therapy. He stated, “Therapy requires a deep dive and that’s the scary part. A lot of people are afraid to come into therapy; there’s still a stigma in terms of mental health/illness”. To put clients at ease, he leans on his experience to provide clarity. He explained this by saying, “You come to a mental health professional like you would a family doctor. You get an assessment, a prescriptive course of treatment, and tools to go with that. Once you’ve accomplished your goals and find resolution, you go on your way!”
He uses a combination of treatment modalities, including, CBT, DBT, ACT, Solution Focused, and Psychodynamic. He prefers to match the approach with what his clients need. Once he finds a good fit, he can begin the process of therapy. He described the process saying, “I utilize going back into their childhood, often exploring their family-of-origin. We work on connecting the dots along the way with how they’re experiencing their current challenges. That understanding can help clients understand what’s happening now and help them start walking around that pattern instead of falling into it. The goal is to establish a toolkit for addressing their challenges, eventually making them their own therapist”.
The Role of Faith in Therapy
“God, being the Divine Clinician, helps us through even the most challenging moments in therapy”
I was really struck by Michael’s perspective on integrating faith and therapy. He said, “I don’t look at it as a career but as a vocation; I see it as a parallel track to priesthood. A client’s spiritual wellbeing is an essential part of treatment. Whether it is working on self-compassion, self-forgiveness, or a return to the sacraments. This is why I love Alpha Omega; I can really utilize and integrate my Catholic faith within treatment.” Michael sees this as part of willing the good of his clients; understanding them more and allowing God to work in their lives.
Michael likened this process to identifying and untying knots in our lives. He said, “Unbinding these knots can help us move more quickly on our journey towards God”. This approach provides a familiar and safe harbor for clients. They can be assured that we will respect and honor their faith, not challenge it. Michael identified this as part of Alpha Omega’s core mission of serving the community. This applies at every level, in the person of the therapist, in the treatment approach, and in the environment. He said, “I want all clients considering Alpha Omega to know that they’re going to have a counseling service that’s going to be attuned to being faithful to the Lord and His Church”.
Lastly, Michael offered a reflection on his personal journey as a therapist, saying, “When we get to the end of treatment, I always tell my clients, I am profoundly impacted by your life. It’s an awesome experience to be able to sit with clients in their most vulnerable moments. This is one way that God works in our lives as therapists”.
Learn More or Make an Appointment
Michael is currently seeing clients online and in-person at our Bethesda office. Learn more about him here or contact Alpha Omega Clinic if you are interested in making an appointment!