Our Company Story: 15 Years and growing, from Art Spa to Today
Nadia Jenefsky, MPS, LCAT, Clinical Director/Director of Child & Family Services tells the story of how New York Creative Arts Therapists of Williamsburg came to be.
Co-founder Drena Fagen and I met working as art therapists at a juvenile justice program in Manhattan dedicated to finding alternatives to incarceration for youth of color from neighborhoods that are disproportionately criminalized and targeted by policing. We developed a deep friendship and passion for our work, filling the time with talk and creative ideas between therapy sessions. After many years working for city agencies, where we were seen either as social workers or “art ladies”, we felt frustrated with the limitations and red tape involved in getting our unique, effective services to the people who needed them. When our agency jobs ended, we seized the opportunity to take our services directly to the community.
When we opened our doors in Williamsburg, people delighted in doing therapy in an art studio. They loved making art in the waiting room instead of reading tabloid magazines. They shared with us their frustrations with traditional talk therapy, and felt energized and excited about tackling issues in a hands-on way.
As the neighborhood community changed we responded by adding child and family services (way back in 2005 we only worked with adults) and LGBTQ affirmative services. We also made the commitment to accept State subsidized insurance plans in order to remove socioeconomic barriers to mental health treatment. The enormous demand for services has expanded our reach into new neighborhoods and communities. We now serve over 300 clients per year and have 16 staff therapists and 6 graduate interns in our two locations: Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and the Hudson Valley in Cold Spring. In 2018 we achieved our vision of having all of the creative arts therapies under one metaphoric roof: Art Therapy, Drama Therapy, Dance-Movement Therapy, Music Therapy and Expressive Therapy. We are the only practice in New York with a fully multi-modal staff. Since COVID-19, we transitioned without interruption of service to online teletherapy, with promising results that we can continue to reach and support people in this time of social isolation.
Recent events have only accentuated the need for widely accessible and affordable mental health services. We are continually committed to removing barriers to treatment: stigma, financial, socio-cultural, racial and geographic. We have been striving to meet the increasing demand for therapists who reflect the diversity of the individuals who come to us seeking support. We continue to recognize the need to address and challenge the white, eurocentric bias inherent in traditional psychotherapy, and are committed to opening up our field to more racially, socially and culturally competent models.
We know that everyone—regardless of race, social status, gender or sexual orientation—carries life experiences that are profound, confusing, and sometimes painful. We have found no better way to help people make sense of their stories, than inviting them to share them with a trusted and well-trained therapist. We are often humbled and moved by what our clients of all ages create, and this inspires us to continue to find new ways to bring our services to those who need it the most.
Drena Fagen, LCSW-R, LCAT Director of Programs