You could say that Mark Barhan has found his third career, but his first love. He took a long route to get to his current role as a Behavior Support Clinician with Damar Services. When he got out of college in the mid-1970s, Mark took a job at the Indiana Boys School, where he spent more than a decade, eventually becoming the executive director of the maximum security unit. However, as his family grew, Mark felt a need to pursue a career with more earning potential, so he shifted gears and went into the financial services industry, where he worked for the next 30 years before retiring. For him, though, retirement wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. “I couldn’t stand it,” the five-time grandfather says.
As Mark considered his options, he realized he missed working with kids, so last year he took a job in an elementary school helping special-needs children. Before the year was over, the teacher Mark worked with was so impressed with him that she suggested he look into opportunities at Damar, where her husband works. She thought Mark’s unique skill set and experience would be a great fit there.
A few months later, Mark joined Damar as part of a new collaboration with Meridian Health Services to provide services to young men with behavior problems. The services are provided primarily on an outpatient basis. The objective is to help the young men learn coping skills they can use to live in their communities more successfully.
“I’m beginning to use a term when I work with them, a term I stole from the 100 Black Men organization,” Mark says. “I say, ‘We need to have a man plan.’”
To put this “man plan” into place, Mark typically spends a couple of hours a week with each client, either on the Damar campus, in school, in group homes or other settings. Seeing them in their daily routines and environments is more constructive than meeting with them in an office, he says, and it allows him to tailor his approaches to each individual’s needs and situation.
“I see success in some, I see backtracking in others,” Mark says. “Either way, you’ve got to understand that it’s just another step in getting better.”
As remarkably different as Mark’s career paths might seem, he says he sees a lot of similarities between his work with young men and his work in the financial services industry. “You’re working with the most personal thing people have, whether it’s behavior that causes a problem or behavior trying to save money and get out of debt,” he says.
Either way, helping people progress is what makes Mark feel fulfilled. In that regard, it seems he has indeed found his true calling at Damar. “My wife puts it best,” he says. “She says, ‘You are in your element.’”