In 2018, Navy warship captain and Hoover Fellow Matthew Brown embarked on a mission to combat the pervasive cycle of cognitive distortions. Distortions that plague more than 1 in 5 U.S. adults.

Learning about the loss of a young Naval Officer who tragically died by suicide and witnessing the impact of mental illness on his family members fueled Matt’s determination to make a difference. Thus, Chimney Trail Health was born – a behavioral health care company dedicated to providing innovative adaptations of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to eliminate destructive patterns of anxiety, depression, and suicide through exposure to CBT education.

The journey began with a multi-year focus on understanding the intricacies of CBT and its application. “I started flying around the country talking to every psychiatrist and psychologist I could find, and they all came back and said the same thing,” says Matt. “They said, ‘You have to figure out how to teach people about cognitive behavioral theory before they need it. They have to learn the academic elements of CBT before they need it.’ So I said, okay that’s cool. Now how do we do it?”

Collaborating with leading psychiatrists and psychologists from around the Nation, and later companies like AMSG and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University, Matt honed their approach and product, developing a personalized mail-delivered mental health kit. The kit – which has been vetted by the likes of Dr. Lindsay Orchowski, a Brown University research psychologist, and Dr. Leah Blain, Director of the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic – has included everything from an actual hatchet to a smokeless stove for outdoor camping and grilling. Most importantly, each kit is equipped with literature that addresses one or more of the 10 common cognitive distortions as outlined in CBT.

Combining these elements of adventure, education, and practical tools, the kits guide individuals who may be spiraling to learn about CBT, get out of their comfort zones, and rewire their brains with more constructive pathways. “The idea really is that you want people in an unfamiliar environment because if you can get them into a place that’s a bit unfamiliar, it primes their brain to accept an indelible memory,” says Matt.

Central to Chimney Trail Health’s philosophy is the belief that education is key to empowerment. By demystifying the academic elements of CBT through its literature and creative adaptations, the company equips people with the tools to navigate the challenges of cognitive distortions. And with a dedicated team of advising clinical professionals and strategic partnerships, the company is establishing new boundaries of behavioral health care innovation and what that could look like in the future.

“We discovered there was a lot of value in presenting CBT in a mail-delivered way because receiving a personalized package or piece of mail makes you feel validated as an individual,” says Matt. “And knowing there’s equipment inside, even in a profound state of depression, most people are interested in seeing what’s inside. There’s an element of curiosity. So, opening up our kits to find quality items, people sense that someone is actually invested in them and that reinforces the loop of validation as a person. And while you’re in there we teach you about CBT and maybe that inspires you to take your first step out of whatever ditch you happen to be stuck in.”

Looking ahead, Chimney Trail Health has its sights set on expansion and partnerships with corporations, educational institutions, and government agencies, including Ernst & Young, the Walt Disney Company, and the U.S. Department of Defense. By empowering individuals with the tools and knowledge to personally navigate their mental well-being, Chimney Trail Health endeavors to break the cycle of cognitive distortions and foster a healthier mental wellness future for everyone, one kit at a time.

Written by: Juania Owens