In 2018, Warm Hearth Village (WHV) began offering counseling for residents with interns from the School of Education at Virginia Tech (VT). Matthew Fullen, Assistant Professor of Counselor Education at VT, knew retirement communities often offered residents social, physical, intellectual and spiritual programs designed to enrich multidimensional wellness. Fullen thought the Counselor Education program could provide emotional support for seniors so he partnered with life enrichment staff at WHV to launch this innovative program with counseling graduate students to provide counseling at no cost. Since then, individual, couples, and group counseling services have provided more than 1,300 direct counseling hours to residents across campus. In 2019, this unique partnership and innovative program received a Promising Practice Award from the Mather Institute. This award highlights organizations working with older adults, in a variety of settings, using unconventional practices and innovative approaches.
“I think the partnership has been successful because older adults have a difficult time accessing quality counseling services so this program is particularly helpful,” said Fullen. “Likewise,” he added, “the graduate interns gain a great deal from the opportunity to hone their skills while serving WHV residents, making this truly a win-win for everyone involved. Through the partnership, we’ve learned there is consistent demand for counseling across independent living, assisted living, and long-term care, with concerns mirroring what one would expect to see in the broader community.”
Catie Briscoe is a Social Worker at Kroontje Health Care Center which offers assisted living, long-term care, memory care and rehab services. She said this program greatly benefits residents who are exploring new grief, diagnoses or lifestyle changes. “This is so beneficial because seniors feel heard and can discuss their feelings in a way they may not be able to express to other staff or their family. I feel the residents are comfortable knowing their conversations are confidential, plus they don’t need to leave their home to find this comfort,” Briscoe said.
WHV appreciates the many partnerships with Virginia Tech and surrounding business/academic partners. It is part of the mission of this nonprofit organization to partner with the greater community for research and teaching and what makes them unique in their field.