Bantam Location

AndrewOwner & CEO


– Andrew Matusiak, MSW LCSW, 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 Clinical Supervisor & 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.



Becca Cadoff

Becca is a RYT-200 yoga teacher with a focus on healing through movement and functional yoga. Her classes are designed for people and their bodies, and allow for exploration.

Becca has been practicing yoga for over 20 years– primarily vinyasa but with dabblings in “athletic,” ashtanga, bikram, hatha, restorative, and yin practices. She completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training online through the Seattle-based Awakening Yoga Academy with Carling Harps and Patrick Beach, and a 20-hour trauma-informed Yoga Teacher Training with Exhale to Inhale. She has also practiced extensively with NYC-based Orly Mallin. Becca is also a Reiki 1 Practitioner (Chantal Guillou-Brennan lineage). Outside of yoga, Becca enjoys meditating, reading, hiking, running, rowing, and generally being outdoors.


Kiersten Mezger

Hi! I am Kiersten. I am a lightworker, yoga teacher, and aromatherapist. I have a BS in Alternative Medicine from Everglades University in Boca Raton. My emphasis was in nutrition. I am a Certified Holistic Health practitioner. My Energy work certification comes from Northwestern Connecticut Community College Center for Holistic Studies. I am certified with Wisdom of the Earth as an aromatherapist. I believe our bodies will tell us what they need if you just listen. For my yoga teaching certificateI studied with SMYL in Evanston, IL for my 200 hour yoga teacher training. I am registered with Yoga Alliance. I have been practicing yoga for close to twenty years, but only in the last 8 have i been a serious practitioner.


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.

Cong Tran

Hi, I’m Cong. I graduated from the Cortiva Institute of Massage Therapy in June of 2020 when the state reopened after being shut down for 3 months. I love helping clients with their pain, pain from everyday posture, pain from working out, pain that causes other pain. I work light to deep, from the fascia all the way down to the deeper muscle layer. I specialize in trigger point, Gua Sha/IASTM, cupping Myofascial, and Deep Tissue. Looking at the body as a whole instead of looking at one specific muscle as the problem.


Marianne Macdonald

Marianne graduated from the Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy and has been working as a Licensed Massage Therapist for over 30 years.

In addition to that, she is a Reiki Master/Teacher and is certified in reflexology. She had worked in her private practice, spas, and in healthcare, working mostly with oncology patients.

With over 30 years of experience, her goal is to provide a warm, comforting & nurturing environment for everyone who comes to see her, and let them experience a profound sense of calm and deep relaxation. She uses numerous techniques to provide the most effective session for each person.


Adama Maynard

Hello my name is Adama Maynard. I am a licensed Massage Therapist, a Reiki Master, and a student of Traditional Chinese Medicine. My aim is to assist in the process of healing through various forms of bodywork and awareness. I am an intuitive Healer who is Always Doing the Absolute Most for All.



Vivian Jimenez-Rijo

Vivian is a Reiki level 1 & 2 practitioner who has interned and advocated for Western Connecticut State University student body including staff, about achieving mental wellness with Holistic modalities. She specializes in EFT tapping, Guided Imagery, Guided Meditation. Vivian is also a passionate cinematographer/editor and Award winning documentarian. She is a Native Spanish speaker whose goal is to bring joy, awareness , and emotional support to clients with Holistic philosophies. Her contagious optimistic attitude empowers her clients to thrive rather than just get by in their lives.


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.



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.

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.


Karen Fenn

I am looking to work with clients who want to improve themselves, or those who are stuck and need some help getting unstuck. We all face challenges and I would love to be able to help you through those challenges, whether they are long term or short term.

I have worked with clients who have anxiety, depression, and substance abuse issues. I have experience with cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and motivational interviewing.

I meet you where you are. I will work with you on your goals during our sessions, so that can extend into your home life. Therapy is a journey, not a sprint. How you make that journey is up to you. I am here to help you through it.

Samantha O’Connor

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

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

Hi, I am Lauren Zinke. I have been interning as an LPC-I at Challenging Minds since August and plan to continue working in private practice once I am licensed. I graduated from Curry College with a degree in biochemistry in 2020 and am currently a graduate student at Sacred Heart University in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program on track to obtain my license in August of 2023. I am currently working primarily with young adults, adolescents, and children. I work with clients to better understand the thoughts we have on a daily basis and how they influence our emotional and behavioral reactions. I am looking to be trained in mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to work with individuals to better understand how our thoughts drive physical and emotional reactions and incorporate holistic wellness into our everyday routines. I work with my clients by focusing on restructuring negative thoughts to develop healthier coping skills and behavioral responses. I believe that each person who enters my office is unique in nature and deserves a therapeutic process that is unique to them as well.


Beatrice Alexander

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