Bantam Location

AndrewCo-Owner & CEO


– Andrew Matusiak, MSW LCSW, Co-Owner and CEO

Andrew started Challenging Minds LLC with the motivation to integrate a holistic approach to treating mental health. Andrew focuses on a “bottom up” and “top down” approach to counseling; supporting clients with different mindfulness, breathing, and grounding approaches that reduce anxiety overtime. Andrew is certified as an ART therapist, which specializes in treating anxiety, phobias, and trauma disorders.

By the coping methods taught in therapy, Andrew believes that clients can be brought to their full agency; leading to a compassionate, self-directed, and organized perspective, allowing for emotional and mental freedom.

Melissa Co-Owner, Clinical Director & COO

Melissa Hurley is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over ten years of working in the field of human services. She graduated with my Master’s Degree in Social Work in 2006 from Southern Connecticut State University’s Advanced Standing program and has been licensed in the state of Connecticut since 2009. During her time in the field, she has had many opportunities that have granted her the tools and knowledge that allow her to support clients in diverse ways, and to meet them where they are at. Some of these experiences include working with Children, Adolescents and Families in In-Home Therapy models. She has also worked in educational settings, as a Psychiatric Clinician, a Medical Social Worker for children/adolescents and adults, and provided end of life support to clients and families while working in hospice. She has a particular strength in working with children through a variety of treatment options, including play and art therapy. She has a reputation for helping parents to improve parenting strategies and for providing couples therapy with the use of evidence-based psychotherapy techniques to set goals and make progress.

Melissa uses a personalized approach to help clients learn to cope with life circumstances. She is committed to creating a caring, accepting, and non-judgmental environment in which you will feel understood, valued, and safe. She specializes in working with child and adolescent populations, psychiatric assessments, couples/family therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Bereavement/Grief Therapy, and Solution Focused Brief Therapy.

HeatherWellness Center Manager

Heather Allen CPC, CPB

Heather Allen is a Certified Professional Coder & Certified Professional Biller. She completed the Medical Coding and Billing certificate program through Eastern Connecticut State University’s continuing education department in early 2021. Shortly after she became nationally certified through the American Academy of Professional Coders.

She remains dedicated to staying current with the constantly evolving coding and billing guidelines through webinars, workshops, and conferences.


Shari Specland

Shari  has been a holistic massage therapist for over 30 years.  Practicing client-centered wellness she combines an array of modalities and techniques to  assist the body in releasing tension and pain as stress melts away.  Ongoing benefits to health and wellbeing are realized as the mind and body come into balance supporting the client’s personal goals for wellness and vitality.

Much of her career has been spent working in physical therapy clinics.  The last 10 years she has worked in a naturopathic office relieving pain and supporting healing through the use of massage, various bodywork modalities, reiki, guided imagery, breathwork, and coaching.

She has studied and trained in various forms of bodywork and mindfulness techniques including myofascial release, reflexology, guasha, hypnotherapy, meditation and various energy modalities.

Shari holds a Masters degree in Integrated Health and Healing and has more recently studied Nature Connected Life Coaching.  She is in the process of earning her Certification through the International Coaching Federation.  And has recently begun a course to become a NatureLed practitioner.
She is an avid hiker, meditator and lifelong learner, particularly interested in understanding nature’s wisdom and assisting and empowering others in finding healing and balance in their lives.

Reiki & Reflexology

Tara Cornish is the owner and founder of Holistic Hands.  She is a Certified Reflexologist and Reiki Master/Teacher.  After applying her education and working in the healthcare field since 1990 she has seen the amazing benefits of using holistic approaches to help heal, relax, renew and rejuvenate.

As a young child Tara had been exposed to the powerful healings of Reflexology and Reiki; however, she was not aware of this at the time.

Since 1990 Tara has worked in the healthcare field.  She never felt completely satisfied because she found that this only involved the physical part of the body.  Tara wanted to work not only with the physical, but with the emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of her clients.

Only after receiving her first life changing healing session did Tara realize that this was her life’s calling.  This could only be done by studying and learning alternative healing modalities such as Reflexology and Reiki.  She has always been in tune with life energy so these choices were a perfect fit.  Tara has witnessed, and continues to see, the powerful innate ability the body has to heal itself.  She feels blessed to be able to assist people in their unique journey!  Tara is passionate about her work and the health and well being of her clients.

Certifications include:

Certified through The International Institute of Reflexology in the Original Ingham Method® of Reflexology. | Reflexology and Meridian Therapy 1 & 2 with Lillian Tibshraeny-Morten. | Reflexology and Cancer; Symptom Management and Contraindications with Memorial Sloan Kettering Oncology Nurse and Reflexologist Susan Berenson. | Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki Master/Teacher, mentored under Anne Malley RN,RM and Barbara Gaski RM,QHP. | Ancient Hawaiian Huna Healing,  Oahu, Hawaii | Quantum-Touch, Richard Gordon. | Doula/ Birth & Post Partum, ALACE. | CT Nursing Assistant * Hospice  & all aspects of Elder Care |EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique

Professional Memberships include: Reflexology Lymph Drainage, Reflexology Association of CT (Past President), International Institute of Reflexology, Reflexology Association of America, Association of Labor and Childbirth Educators , The Distant Healing Network

Insured through: Insurance Plus

Telehealth Therapists


Diane S. Ack-Mitchell, Ed.D., LPC
Dr. Ack-Mitchell is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) who will be providing 100% Telehealth support for a variety of mental health conditions for individuals across the spectrum. Guided by genuine respect and compassion, Dr. Ack-Mitchell seeks to develop a positive rapport with clients and safe space where clients can be themselves without fear of being judged. Dr. Ack-Mitchell holds a Doctor of Education from Nova Southeastern University. Moreover, while attending graduate school, Dr. Ack-Mitchell completed a degree in Counseling in conjunction with an Ed. S. in Mental Health Counseling. As well, Dr. Ack-Mitchell holds Standard Certifications as a School Counselor and Director of School Counseling Services. Her most recent acquisition has been becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor in Connecticut. Dr. Ack-Mitchell is committed to helping those in need of counseling services.

EdClinical Supervisor


Ed Bacigalupo is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over fifteen years of contributing to the human services industry. He finds it a distinct honor and pleasure to now be collaborating with Challenging Minds LLC to bring highly innovative and ethical Mental Health Care to the Greater Torrington community. He is a graduate of both the SUNY New Paltz and Albany Psychology and Social Work programs respectively and has extensive experience in managed care, administrative and direct care roles in both the public and private sector. In his career, Ed has taken great pride in his strengths-based and humanistic perspectives; treating his clientele with respect and dignity, along with encouraging each individual to achieve their true potential in life.

Melissa D.
Melissa D.


Melissa Dubich is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate who has over 20 years’ experience in the mental health field. She has worked with a diverse population of clients that have struggled with mental health and substance use disorders within various clinical settings including group home, residential settings, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, detox, and intensive in-home models of therapy. She is passionate about working with active-duty military members and their families. She received her LPCA in 2023 following graduating with her Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

In taking a nonjudgmental, strength-based approach, she aims to create a safe environment that helps her clients through their depression, anxiety, trauma, family and related relationship struggles. She utilizes evidence-based approaches including cognitive behavioral therapy and client-centered therapy to encourage her clients to build on their strengths and develop necessary skills to help decrease their symptoms while increasing their overall well-being. With being bilingual, Melissa has provided Spanish-speaking services to clients that have struggled with seeking services previously due to their language barrier.

Torrington Location

Skylar Clinical Supervisor


Skylar Sandel is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has spent the past ten years serving individuals, children, and families in various capacities within the human service field. For the past four years she has worked as a crisis intervention clinician working with children and families in the school, community, home, and hospital setting. She takes a responsive client-focused approach to treating trauma exposure allowing her to establish strong therapeutic alliances with clients in their most vulnerable moments.

Prior to entering the crisis field Skylar worked with at risk youth, survivors of domestic violence and families in transitional periods. Skylar is highly adaptive and tailors her therapeutic approach to best meet the needs of the client. Her approach encourages healthy boundary setting while simultaneously identifying individual strengths and positive coping skills.



Stephen Hurley is a Licensed Professional Counselor with over 20 years of experience in Human Services. He has worked with people of all ages in educational settings, crisis work, residential programs, outpatient therapy and in managerial roles. During this time, he has acted as an advocate for parents and children while providing direct care and consultation to best meet their needs. He takes a proactive, strengths-based approach to help others manage their anxiety, depression, trauma, family and interpersonal relationships. Steve often employs cognitive behavioral and mindfulness strategies with a non-judgemental approach to further develop confidence and self esteem, so that individuals he works with can better self advocate.


Samantha O’Connor, LMSW

Samantha O’Connor, LMSW, earned her Masters in Social Work at Sacred Heart University, and her Bachelors in Psychology. She has experience working with children and adolescents and believes in a comprehensive approach to learning about and treating the whole person. Samantha approaches her client work from a strength-based perspective, and she is trained to support individuals using evidence-based treatments including Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy (TFCBT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Samantha has a warm and sensitive approach that allows young people to feel well-supported in her presence. Samantha can be contacted at


Lisa Heuschkel, LCSW

Lisa Heuschkel is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 25 years of experience working with adolescents and adults in a variety of settings including mental health agencies and public schools. She graduated with a Masters Degree in Social Work in 2000 from the University of Connecticut and has been licensed in the state of CT since 2005.

Lisa has spent the last 22 years working with middle and high school students and their families in a public school setting. Additionally, Lisa worked in clinical settings and private practice during that time.

Lisa is also a Certified Professional Recovery Coach, and has certifications in Positive Psychology from the Wholebeing Institute and she holds a certification in Trauma informed Clinical Practice from New York University.


Lauren Zinke, LPC-A

Lauren started interning at Challenging Minds in August 2022 and received her Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Sacred Heart University as a licensed associate counselor in August 2023. She specializes in working with children and teens living with ADHD, ODD, and other behavioral issues, as well as with young adults navigating anxiety, depression, and codependency. Lauren has also completed a training in navigating non-suicidal self injury and is currently being trained in neuro-feedback.

Lauren utilizes a blend of cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness based cognitive therapy to aid clients in emotional regulation and help them to better understand how their thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes affect their feelings and actions.


Beatrice Alexander, LMSW

Beatrice will be receiving her Masters in Social Work from University of Saint Josephs in May 2023. She graduated from Wheaton College in Massachusetts in 2018. Over the last 5 years she has worked primarily with the substance abuse population. Since starting her internship at Challenging Minds she has worked with teenagers utilizing a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) approach to help her clients deal with depression, anxiety, and home and school stress. Beatrice would welcome the opportunity to continue to work with individuals who struggle with substance abuse along with trauma. Beatrice can be contacted at

Jean H.
Jean H.

Jean Hunter, LPC-A

Jean received her LPCA in January 2023 following graduation from Antioch New England University with a certificate of advanced graduate studies in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Jean has experience working with adolescents and adults in a variety of settings including agencies and school based services. Jean also holds a license in school counseling obtained in 2007.

With an ability to meet each client right where they she utilizes an integrated and collaborative approach to therapy to assist in bringing out the unique gifts that contribute to knowing one’s authentic self. Her approach is calm and trusting as clients take the journey to challenge themselves and they navigate through their therapeutic needs.

Jean C.
Jean C.

Jean Cunnigham, LCSW

I am a tenured LCSW with many years working with clients of all ages. I have a background in emergency room crisis work, domestic violence work and many years of private practice experience. I am currently completing my certification as a Registered Play Therapist and would like to concentrate my current efforts on working with toddlers thru teenage years, as well as supporting families of these clients with parental coaching and peripheral supports.


Michelle Eifes, LMSW

Michelle joins Challenging Minds with 12 years of social work experience, informed by her education at Southern Connecticut State University where she received her Bachelors of Social Work. She is a recent graduate of Fordham University, receiving her Master’s degree in Clinical Social Work. Michelle has experience with working with at-risk adolescents, adults, and families and has had a wide variety of clinical exposure over the last four years, working with individuals and families who are impacted by Substance Use Disorders and adolescents and young adults with Marijuana Abuse Disorder. Since beginning her most recent specialist internship, Michelle has supported teenagers utilizing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) clinical approaches to help her clients improve features of depression, anxiety, and home and school stressors. Michelle is also experienced with LGBTQIA youth and young adults, specifically in advocacy and gender affirming care roles. Lastly, Michelle also has a passion for seniors who are transitioning to end of life needs and supporting them and their families utilizing a holistic approach, including “bottom-up” therapeutic treatments, such as mindfulness and meditation.