When Jeff Cox and Hilary Chiappini first worked together, they soon recognized their shared passion for supporting neurodiverse children and their families. It is that mutual passion to support others that is at the core of Beautiful Minds, a mental health agency serving all of New Jersey.
Founded in 2016, Beautiful Minds delivers intensive in-community therapeutic services to youth, ages 3 to 21, and their families, including behavioral assistance, clinical assessments, mentoring, and parent coaching. It also provides individual, couples, and family counseling in an outpatient setting to individuals of all ages.
Beautiful Minds’ multidisciplinary team—led by Cox as director of clinical services and Chiappini as director of operations—comprises counselors, social workers, and behavior specialists. Their licensed specialists utilize evidence-based practices, grounded in neuroscience, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), and positive psychology, that consider the unique needs, strengths and goals of the individuals in their care.
“In our in-home program, you’re meeting where children and families are most comfortable— their homes,” says Cox. “They can have multiple diagnoses and their needs often impact their success in their home, community, or school.”
“There are so many facets of a person, and I think especially for children—who have always been our predominant population—there are so many things that can’t necessarily be touched upon when you’re in an office setting,” Chiappini adds. “When you’re in their home, you’re right in the thick of it: You can pick up on dynamics of the family, or even learn more about biological inheritance, like if a family has persistent anxiety through generations.”
Cox explains that Beautiful Minds will soon have two additional “lines of service” available, chosen for being “specifically designed for children who have neurodevelopmental diagnoses.” The first is its ABA offerings and the second, in its final stages of state approval, is intensive in-home (IIH) services. Similar to intensive in-community services which Beautiful Minds already delivers, IIH services are delivered in-home but are specialized services provided to children with developmental disabilities.
Delivering in-home services throughout a pandemic has certainly presented Beautiful Minds with a number of challenges.
“We had to get creative making that transition work for our clients,” says Cox. “One of our biggest barriers was that some children just can’t sit in front of a computer, so a lot of us were out in the community—but instead of being in people’s houses, we’d be on their porch, in their backyard or any community setting where people could stay safe.”
Beautiful Mind’s outpatient services, meanwhile, immediately shifted to telehealth. While those remote sessions weren’t a solution for everyone, their advent has allowed more people to access therapeutic services from the location of their choosing.
“I love telehealth and how accessible it is,” says Chiappini, who notes that her adult clients especially benefit from it. “They can just jump on their computer, talk with me for an hour, and work through personal challenges. Previously, I think they might have been a little more anxious coming into an office because it felt like they were seeing a doctor for an illness.”
Still, even with workarounds yielding new solutions, Beautiful Minds is cognizant of COVID’s lasting impact on its young clients.
“Our clients had to create a new norm for themselves—and change is always hard,” notes Cox. “Our younger clients lacked socialization, which is crucial to the development of their brains and their emotional intelligence. The pandemic impeded that development. I’ve seen an increase in the need to meet with child study teams and to support families as they advocate for their children’s needs in the school setting.”
Adapting to current conditions and guidelines has helped the agency look toward the future, though it has always possessed a growth mindset that has crystalized into a clear vision.
“We’re working toward adding services for substance abuse,” Chiappini says. “We also hope to move in the direction of integrating nutrition and health and wellness. The mind, body and spirit are all so interconnected, and we see the value in acknowledging that.”
“We are not shying away from expanding our physical locations because there is absolutely still a need for in-person services,” adds Cox. “We’re not in service for ourselves: We’re in service to our clients, and their need right now is higher than ever.”
Serving South Jersey