Employee Spotlight: Jason Craig, Grafton’s Clinical Director for Community Based Services
Dr. Jason Craig, EdD is Grafton’s Clinical Director for Community Based Services. He has been with the organization for almost 10 years and has a unique perspective on where it’s been and where it is going in the future.
Why did you want to work in behavioral healthcare?
Honestly, I started out in the field of education and that is what originally brought me to Grafton. Even as a kid, I wanted to help people; and people came to me for help. I have always been interested in social services. In fact, if you look in my fifth grade yearbook, I am pretty sure I said that I wanted to be a child psychologist.
What is your background?
My undergraduate degree is in psychology. My first job was in a psychiatric crisis unit in a hospital system. I’ve also worked in other social service fields providing case management for people with mild disabilities and performing child abuse investigations.
Then, I transitioned into the public education system, got my Master’s Degree in educational administration, and became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. As I was looking for the next step in my professional development, I found Grafton and started as the assistant educational administrator.
I didn’t think of Grafton as a behavioral healthcare organizational initially; I saw it as an educational organization. Once I got more clinically involved in the development of the applied behavior analysis (ABA) program, I learned how everything truly worked together to support the child as a whole. It was then that I began to see Grafton as a behavioral health organization that has multiple components including education.
Now, as the clinical director of children’s community-based services, I feel like the paths I’ve taken have shown me how everything comes together to support a therapeutic milieu that is also a non-profit business. Treating an individual cuts across all the different components of what the organization does. I don’t miss any of my previous opportunities at Grafton, because I feel like I still get to be a part of them all in my current roll.
I also still get to participate in the education process in other ways. In addition to my work at Grafton, I teach at Shenandoah University in Virginia and Nova Southeastern University in Florida in the fields of ABA and special education.
Why are Grafton’s clients unique?
It is a population that is often underrepresented and misunderstood. The acuity of the individuals that we serve have co-occurring developmental, intellectual, and mental health concerns compounded by a trauma history. Many of them will need lifelong supports. But these are the same clients that surprise us every day with the progress that they make and the skills they learn.
What makes Grafton a special place to work?
It’s the clients and my co-workers – witnessing progress in individuals that have experienced multiple treatment failures also shows me compassion in action. There are difficult days, but there are more days of celebration. There is change, which is sometimes driven by the behavioral healthcare field. But Grafton is also not afraid to change for the good of the individual. Most importantly, we focus on the whole individual and make all stakeholders, including parents and communities, a part of that process.
What does utilizing a trauma informed approach mean to you? How has it affected your work?
A trauma informed approach means that we learn about the individual before they step through the door and from the individual as they experience care. We use universal precautions, in which one expects the presence of trauma in lives of individuals, so that we can avoid creating experiences that will retraumatize them.
In addition, we focus on creating a learning environment rather than one of crisis. Learning won’t occur in an environment of crisis. So, we are always trying to gain knowledge from our experiences so that we can avoid triggering a client and prevent crises.
What type of training, guidance and support have you received that help you to do your job?
I’ve always had opportunities to learn on the job. From my first position at Grafton to my current role, there has always been someone who can teach me about clients, about the system and about behavioral healthcare. I’ve had help from all levels.
While I’ve worked here, I’ve had the opportunity to go back to school to get an Autism Certificate as well as my doctorate in organizational leadership with an emphasis in ABA, which is something that I’ve always wanted to do. For that, I am grateful.
Do you have a favorite story from your time at Grafton?
I had a client coming out of early intervention that received continued services from Grafton, but was able to transition into public education with fading consultative supports. She’s continued to progress, and will likely need minimal supports as she progresses through elementary school.
I truly believe that the services that Grafton’s team provided and the engagement of the family really changed the course of this individual’s life. If she hadn’t been able to access these services, what level of support would she need now? There may come a point in the future when she doesn’t need support at all. Cases like this show the opportunity we have to change someone’s life.
What do you like about working at Grafton vs. other places you’ve worked?
I think our ability to be innovative and change is unique. Systems are necessary for organizations to operate, but being able to make programmatic improvements, innovate, celebrate, and encourage learning has set Grafton apart for me.
Our team has traveled all over the country and internationally, as far as Australia, to present on the minimization of restraint and seclusion. We’ve created Ukeru. These are things, which have allowed me, personally, to be a part of disruptive innovation. And I am very proud and grateful to Grafton for allowing me to contribute to that.
What would you say to a family considering Grafton for their child?
It is challenging enough grappling with the fact that your child has a disability and needs this level of support. But in one of the most difficult decisions they will likely have to make for their child, I want families to know there are places like Grafton out there that strive to have the highest levels of care. There are wonderful intentions at Grafton, and I would want them to find hope in that.