Tom “Bart” Bartolutti

My day job is being a counselor with Group Health Cooperative.

Over the years, I’ve worked with a variety of populations. When I was doing my undergrad work at UW-Madison, I worked at the Waisman Center with people with cognitive and behavioral disabilities and later did counseling with teens and families at Briarpatch.

After that, I worked at a Milwaukee group home and then went to Virginia for my Masters and did work with child and family services in outpatient and school-based locations. I eventually returned to Madison, where I initially worked in outpatient counseling at Journey Mental Health.

Today, I’m an outpatient counselor at Group Health Cooperative. I’m a lifespan counselor, which means I work with people of all ages from little ones to people in the last stages of life.

The people I work with are dealing with a wide variety of issues: anxiety, depression, with trauma, ADHD/ADD, autism, AODA (alcohol and other drug abuse), child/family, complex medical, LGBTQ. You name an area of mental health and I’ve likely worked with someone who’s dealt with it.

People often comment about the difficulty of doing this type of work. There certainly are challenging moments, yet I don’t find people’s problems to be difficult for me, instead working as a roofer would be a real stressful job. Doing this job for so many years has also contributed to me feeling secure and comfortable too. I am honored people will share their most intimate challenges and trust me to help them. 

My most memorable caffeine was during the econ course I was taking when I was still a business major but switching to the social work school. I had no interest in the class, but it was too late to drop it. I had a test but had made the bad choice to smoke pot, which meant I needed a nap. When I woke up, I knew I’d need to cram all night for the final and started consuming a combination of Mt. Dew, coffee and No-doz to make that happen. I essentially overdosed on caffeine, disallowing me to function at all. That was the only “F” of my entire life.

My current caffeine of choice is typically the cheapest type of ground coffee possible. I’m not a purist—I just need my two cups with a little sugar in the morning. Which is not to say I don’t enjoy what I call “breakfast” coffee—which means it’s served with sweetened condensed milk over ice. I do enjoy a fancy coffee, but that’s not typically what I drink.

My favorite place for caffeine is wherever the friend I’m with wants to go. I don’t tend to go out for coffee, so my friends usually pick. Though I do have fond memories of drinking endless cups of coffee out of a chunky diner cup, like you’d get at the Curve or at George Webb, super late, after a show.

I also had a good friend who worked at the Steep and Brew on State St. in the ‘80s so I connect that spot with her and have very fond memories of it.

The person I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with is my best friend Jim. He was my manager at work until June 2020 but switched jobs and because of COVID I don’t get to see him very often. I don’t need to meet with someone famous—I just want to see my best buddy! Though we might have a cocktail instead of a coffee.

World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine: I am absolutely disgusted by the way our society has treated our children. I can’t believe we’re not able to figure out how to get rid of guns and address violence, so our children don’t have to deal with it.

I talk to kids all the time and they tell me about active shooter drills. About scanning their environment when they walk into school.

We’re talking about Black Lives Matter and the Me Too movement—as we should be. But why aren’t we talking about our kids?

My daughter is a teacher, currently doing her practicum in the Chicago schools. She told me she’d take a bullet for her kids. It’s just not right that she would ever need to.