Great Barrington — There is a curved, sculpted wall opposite the entrance to Thomas Miller’s new office — made out of distressed barn board — that stands as a symbol of his belief that life begins at the end of one’s comfort zone. Miller, as reflected in the ostensibly unnatural shape of the wall, has spent his career in the mental health community leaning into arenas he didn’t know about. His experience, ranging from addiction and grief to the LGBT community and wilderness adventure programs, has converged with the opening of Innovative Therapy Solutions, LLC where he is poised to use the avenues of mind, body and spirit to meet individuals where they are in their respective therapeutic journeys.
For both Miller and his wife Nicole, ITS has long been a dream on the horizon. When the couple opened their doors at 420 Stockbridge Road at the beginning of March, they presented to the community “a place of healing, a safe harbor for people to land amidst rough seas,” according to Thomas. He went on to add that the couple, both 37, was driven by their collective desire “to play an important role in tipping the scales towards hope in our community.” In essence, it is a space where the couple plans to commence work without boundaries — a huge blank canvas.
For Miller, a LICSW/LCSW who holds a degree from New York University, his therapeutic approach has always been commitment, accountability and empowerment based. Well-known for his work with de-escalating and supporting kids, Miller takes a personalized approach to helping individuals make sustainable life changes by working from a stage of readiness approach — in other words, he will meet you where you are. And for some individuals that might not be in the therapist’s office.
The Millers’ venture was designed around bringing people together, something co-owner Nicole Miller believes will allow ITS to “reach people in different ways, how and when they are ready.” Nicole, who holds a BFA in art education and an MFA in ceramics, wrote her thesis on community building in the arts; it is in this way that she is making her stamp on the practice. ITS boasts more than 400 square feet of “wellness space” to offer complementary programs, geared towards motivating people for change, by filling the proverbial gaps in traditional mental health care.
Yoga therapist Suzanne Mazzarelli, who holds an MA in social work, brings a unique approach to a series of short-term, skill-based yoga, movement and mindfulness groups. She is currently facilitating the “Just Breathe” groups — for kids, tweens and teens — a group aimed at increasing the individual’s tool-kit to help become more grounded and relaxed in times of stress. Forthcoming will be the adult group, Yoga for Mood Management, as well as ongoing series to address the needs of the community including parent coaching and couples retreats. Nicole, who is currently teaching a five week American Sign Language workshop at ITS, pointed to the airy space, flooded with natural light from the wood floors to the soaring ceilings, as a potential gallery space, as well as venue for hosting events like a forthcoming Paint ‘n’ Sip in conjunction with Harney Teas of Millerton, N.Y. The space is versatile enough to host meetings, workshops, guest lectures and events for up to 25 participants.
For the Millers, who are working to destigmatize the space and eradicate the shame often associated with therapists’ offices, their location was not arrived at lightly. They completely gutted and reconfigured the circa 1900s building, adjacent to Cafe Adam, in order to create a comfortable, inviting space. From the second floor, where ITS has two therapists renting office space, there are sweeping views of Monument Mountain in the distance and the Fountain Pond Trail skirts the rear of the property. It is in this way that they couple plans to venture into unchartered territory, both literally and figuratively, while supporting a community in South County that is currently limited to private practitioners and the Brien Center in Pittsfield.
“There is such a hunger, such a need, for high quality mental health services in the community,” Thomas said. In this vein, he has already worked with the teachers at Muddy Brook elementary school in a workshop addressing how to infuse mindfulness skills into the classroom. This evidence-based work not only grounds students but also improves academic performance. He is presenting his mindfulness training to teachers at Lenox Memorial Middle and High School as well as to students in grades 9-11 prior to the spring MCAS testing. His successful Strength in Numbers group offers support for family members of individuals battling addiction, and his Becoming a Man group provides role modeling for middle school boys who need help “separating and individuating.” All of Miller’s work is driven by his desire to “move people through obstacles while acquiring skills.”
For Miller, who believes in removing barriers to create “better outcomes, therapeutically, across the board,” it’s all about offering the tools for building community. “It’s simple,” Thomas said, “if you lead people there.” Miller and ITS Lead Clinician Mari Hogan, are currently accepting new clients; both work with individuals, couples and families. ITS accepts a plethora of health insurance, including MassHealth, and can be reached at 413-528-8888. Their website, www.itsberkshires.com, is currently under construction.