Hoof Prints: SAHS teacher spends summers as a traveling youth psychologist, therapist

This piece is brought to you by Hoof Prints, a partnership between The Gazette and The Pony Express, Stillwater Area High School’s student newspaper.

By Sam Johnson
Pony Express

As an AP Psychology teacher, Mike Kaul uses his advanced knowledge of the mind for more than just the education of students, he also uses it to help youth stay away from illegal substances, and help them with their psychological problems.

Kaul has a counseling license along with his teaching license, which allows him to spend time during his summer as a traveling psychologist and therapist. He creates and displays presentations and speeches around the U.S about addiction, prevention of both drug use and troublesome behavior, along with peer empowerment and youth in recovery.

This started 25 years ago when the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center reached out to Kaul and asked him to do consulting work with them and to work on programs about prevention. He had completed his Master’s degree at the treatment center in addiction studies, and accepted the offer. Kaul began to work with the treatment center to create awareness for suicide prevention, youth empowerment, sober youth, heroin and opioid use and many other causes to keep kids safe and get help for people who need it.

“To me, working with peer counseling groups and peer empowerment of young people working with youth and recovery is just so awesome. Being involved and being a part of that really makes me a better person. I think I have something to give back,” Kaul said.

Most of the work Kaul does with the youth is in the area and around the Twin Cities, but he is also a part of national assistance, taking him to places like Maine, Pennsylvania, Florida and most recently, Kentucky. He picks and schedules his retreats for the summer, but tends to turn down jobs that seem like are more about the working aspect and less about the education and aid.

“I do this because I feel strongly in it, and I don’t want it to feel like its a job, when it’s really about the help,” Kaul said. “He does this because he wants to help people and make an impact in any way he can,” junior Cole Fernandez added.

Being both a teacher and a therapist, Kaul says that he’s always been able to keep them separate. They’re both education, but what he sees to be the biggest difference between the two is with school he has curricular standards that need to be met, and his see him as a teacher going through the motions, but when he is presenting as a workshop speaker, he prepares, creates and or helps create his own curriculum, and people see him as an expert.

“When I’m teaching, people often discount my training, my knowledge, etc. But when I go out and help for Hazelden, I’m viewed as a professional, and to me it’s so weird to have experienced both sides of the treatment,” Kaul said.

All things come with highs and lows but in this situation, Kaul feels as though the positives strongly out weigh the negatives. Finding time to fit in the work of both school and therapy is hard, and not always possible, but the benefits that come from helping the youth with their struggles is what keeps Kaul motivated to make a change and a difference.

“I’ve met so many amazing, gifted people around the country, I’ve met just amazing young people and I feel very strongly about the work that I’m doing. I can’t describe how special it is to be doing the work that I’m doing,” Kaul said.