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Optimal Healing & Hoosac Valley Schools Partnership



Beginning in April 2022, Optimal Healing, LLC (OH) partnered with Hoosac Valley Middle and High School. This partnership is in line with OH’s core value of providing holistic care to our community. The OH practitioners leading this partnership include: Ashley P. Benson, LICSW, Michael Smith, LICSW, and Megan Heath, LCSW. The goal of OH’s partnership with Hoosac is to provide students with increased emotional and behavioral regulation, pro-social communication skills, and increased positive teacher/ student relationships, which is hoped to result in heightened self-awareness, self-esteem, adaptive coping skills and greater emotional regulation.


Ashley P. Benson, LICSW, states:


“We know that supporting child and adolescent mental health in schools leads to greater academic outcomes, improved life choices and ultimately healthier communities. I am extraordinarily excited about forging relationships with Northern Berkshire Schools and organizations to do more of this work. Supporting the mental health needs of youth, in addition to providing psychoeducation to youth workers, teachers, staff, and parents offers a dynamic parallel process that intersects many parts of our community. It’s projects like these that inspire our team to embody a safe place in our neighborhoods that supports a multifaceted approach to mental health and wellness."


The Optimal Healing team looks forward to continued partnership into summer and fall to support Hoosac Middle & High School students and staff with mental health and emotional well-being following the pandemic.


The programs taking place will include:

  • Nine, one and a half hour groups that will focus on the skill development of key areas of emotional well being, including: mood regulation, communication, coping skills, and more.

  • Three groups of students have been identified in fourth and fifth grades, sixth and seventh grade and ninth to twelfth grades.

  • Individual, short term therapy focused on crisis intervention for group members in need.

  • Pandemic focused interventions and psychoeducation provided to teachers and staff

  • Outside referrals to community based, wrap around programming and support.


Commenting on the partnership, Hoosac Valley Regional School District’s School Psychologist, Courtney Bopp, PsyD., said:


“Jones, Mitra, & Bhuiyan (2021) assessed the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health in adolescents and found "globally, adolescents of varying backgrounds experience high rates of anxiety, depression, and stress due to the pandemic" and recommended that adults "seek and use all available resources and therapies to help adolescents mediate the adjustments caused by the pandemic." The increase in clinical need has weighed heavily on the Hoosac Valley staff as we are seeing more and more students requiring support on a regular basis. The district wanted to be able to effectively provide consistent and high-quality clinical services to our students and a partnership with Optimal Healing, LLC seemed to be the best avenue due to their expertise and highly-qualified clinicians. The hope of the collaboration between Optimal Healing, LLC and Hoosac Valley is to address these mental health needs in a meaningful and effective way.”


Optimal Healing, LLC’s Michael Smith, LICSW said,

"When we look at the impact of the pandemic, which often created isolating situations for our youth, it's no surprise that for many of them, the social and emotional growth they should have experienced was significantly stunted. Our goal in offering these groups for Hoosac Valley students is to help them get to a point where their social and emotional growth and well-being enhances their chances for success, be it in the classroom, in their homes, or in their communities. For our groups, it all starts with modeling a good and healthy relationship based on mutual respect and dignity while at the same time teaching solution focused strategies like problem solving and coping skills."


Optimal Healing, LLC’s Megan Cooper-Heath, LCSW said,


“It is well-known that the adolescent years can be some of the most tumultuous times in one’s life, but the added stress and isolation that these students have had to endure due to the pandemic has certainly created a whole new layer of difficulty that most people have never had to experience before. Our goal is to support the students during this time and teach them skills for healthier coping mechanisms and communication. It is our hope that we can help them begin to process some of the feelings of anxiety and depression that have been exacerbated by being with their peers less and on social media more. Ideally they will be able to utilize these skills in all areas of their lives, increasing their chances for happiness and success in the future.”


In January of 2022, Ashley P Benson, LICSW, established Optimal Healing, LLC with the intention of bringing a holistic healthcare and wellness practice to Northern Berkshire County. Since then, the organization has welcomed four other social workers/therapy practitioners with a variety of specialties who, combined, have performed over 1000 clinical meetings this year. The OH team recently moved to the Carriage Barn at 184 East Main Street in North Adams. The primary goals of OH this year is expansion of wellness offerings, space and connecting with the community. More information about Optimal Healing’s business can be found at www.OHcommunity.org.




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