Grafton and Shenandoah University benefit from decade-long relationship

Strong relationships are central to the success of Grafton Integrated Health Network. Effective relationship-building with clients, families, and community partners can augment the positive impacts of treatment. For an example of this, look no further than the mutually beneficial relationship between Grafton and Shenandoah University.

Located less than a mile from Grafton’s Winchester campus, Shenandoah has become an invaluable neighbor over the past decade. Each year, Grafton welcomes Shenandoah students as interns in musical therapy and occupational therapy (OT). These interns gain valuable experience working with Grafton’s clients. For many, it’s a rare opportunity to put lessons into practice and gain hands-on skills.

“The internship has been eye-opening in every aspect,“ says former music therapy intern Jayda Cook. “Clinically, I’ve been able to see the kids grow and use music to understand what’s going on within their bodies. On an emotional level, it’s been amazing to build one-on-one relationships with the students.”

Both music therapy and OT interns work with Grafton clients under supervision from the professionals employed on each campus. Shenandoah graduate students also gather and assess data on Grafton’s work environment and offer recommendations for improvement, including plans for enhancing stress management and work-life balance.

Hands-on internships aren’t the only way Shenandoah students expand their learning at Grafton. Speech therapy students and student teachers from Shenandoah also work with Grafton to earn field and observation hours. For Grafton, involvement with Shenandoah students offers the chance to influence the next generation of therapy professionals.

“A lot of the students who come to Shenandoah aren’t locals, but if you can get them invested in the community, they might choose to become locals when they graduate, instead of garnering that experience here and taking it elsewhere,” explains Allyson Davis, Executive Director of the Winchester campus.

One such former student is Fredrica Dooley-Brown, who has worked at Grafton for seven years and is also an adjunct professor at Shenandoah. Previously an intern herself, Fredrica is now the head music therapist at Grafton’s Winchester campus, where she also mentors her own interns from Shenandoah. “Grafton has been a great place to work, and I’m so thankful to have an opportunity for growth and development, as a clinician and as a person,” says Fredrica.

Fredrica’s work has also served to further strengthen Grafton’s relationship with Shenandoah.  In 2019 and 2022, she worked with the Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre (SSMT) to develop relaxed performances of The Sound of Music and Cinderella, respectively, which were designed for audience members with sensory processing disorders.

In August, Grafton provided tickets for all of its families and group home residents to attend the relaxed performance of Cinderella at SSMT. Prior to the show, Fredrica worked with the cast and crew to ensure a comfortable experience for all audience members. The house staff also received Ukeru training to make the performance even safer for Grafton clients. Grafton hopes to work closely with SSMT moving forward to provide more relaxed performances.

“It’s a really great relationship we have with them,” says Allyson. “Shenandoah students gain valuable exposure and credit hours working with our unique population, and the work they do allows us to expand our bandwidth to better serve Grafton clients. It’s a win-win.”