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2011 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Creative Alternatives Of New York

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Arts & Culture, Arts Education, Children & Youth, Mental Health, Mental Health & Crisis Intervention, Youth Development

Mission: Creative alternatives of new york partners with leading social service agencies and health care institutions to provide therapeutic theatre programs for traumatized and at-risk populations.

Programs: Creative alternatives of new york (cany) provides an effective intervention for children and adults who have endured life trauma. Partnering with agencies across greater metro new york, cany uses drama therapy to help veterans with ptsd; refugees from war; children and youth with histories of abuse and violence; women survivors of domestic violence; and adults with hiv. Additionally, cany provides training workshops in drama therapy to creative arts therapists, social workers, educators, youth workers and actors.

Community Stories

21 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I came to the Introduction to Drama Therapy and the workshop was great! Not only did I get to see a small sampling of the techniques, but I also got to meet other people that are passionate about their work and incorporating Drama Therapy into their work.

Review from Guidestar

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

CANY is a wonderful organization of dedicated professionals who show a love and commitment to the work they are doing and provide a unique and effective clinical experience. As the Mental Health Coordinator for a program serving teen mothers, I was very pleased with the way CANY drama therapy gave our teens the opportunity to express their feelings safely through theater characters and learn about themselves. CANY drama therapy had special ability to help those kids who are most traumatized and most shut down to express underlying feelings of pain and hope, and also to help higher functioning teens to recognize their strengths, discover talents, face fear of failure and take risks like going back to school, identify career options and see new possibilities for an interesting, productive future. The CANY therapists who came to our houses were the highest quality professionals - - excellent skills and training, smart, engaging, well prepared to work with our challenging population, culturally sensitive and showed evidence of support with high quality supervision.

Review from Guidestar

Board Member

Rating: 5

Attending even a single CANY workshop makes clear the power of using therapeutic theater in a group setting to heal or otherwise benefit myriad populations. The work has been shown to be particularly effective with individuals who have experienced trauma, and children have been among the best responders.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I am writing to extol the virues of the CANY program. Prior to my retirement in 2009, I had been a middle/high school principal at a residential treatment facility for 15 years. Our program served adolescent boys and girls with severe psychiatic impairments. The CANY program was clearly one of the most effective therapeutic program we ever added to our school. The CANY co-leaders were skilled and committed to working with children who had serious behavioral and emotional issues. The CANY staff were extremely patient and understanding and they worked toward student involvement, knowing that if they achieved participation they would achieve desired results. It would be difficult to describe here the positive results of the CANY program due to the individualized therapeutic growth each participant gets from the experience of drama therapy. However, one key measure was the outstanding student attendance and participation in the CANY program. The final creative shows that each group presented during assemblies reflected not only the excitement , energy and creativity of our students but clearly reflected the talented and skilled CANY staff. Their ability to work with students with a wide range of academic and communication abilities truly enhanced and enriched the educational experience for our students. I would recommend the CANY program without reservation for any program that serves special needs children.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am currently an Drama Therapy intern working at CANY. This is my third internship and after interning in various mental health facilities I can attest that CANY is a truly unique in the way that it works with clients' strengths, utilizes a sense of play, and ultimately encourages the use of creativity and imagination as a pathway to health. I feel incredibly lucky to be learning from such wonderful therapists and leaders and working with inspiring clients every day.

Review from Guidestar

General Member of the Public

Rating: 4

I interviewed Jonathan Hilton, Exec. Dir. for a radio program called City Watch a few years ago. He spoke with clarity to the issues of his organization and what it provides for their clients and to the greater needs of citizens in New York City who require trauma services that CANY can provide. I learned many months later that CANY received a contract with a new audience because of that outreach from the show. I have watched eagerly as CANY has grown and matured into a wonderful service organization broadening its definitions and reaching deep into the well of humanity's needs at such an important time as when trauma strikes. I recommend them highly for this award and hope that others help to provide the necessary financial structures for such important work.
Regards,
Deena Kolbert, Host/Producer, City Watch, WBAI

Review from Guidestar

Board Member

Rating: 5

Have been involved on CANY's board for over twenty-five years. Its work continues to evolve and mature and remain authentic in its ability to offer a healing experience. It is a remarkable organization that remains dedicated to the concept that one's imagination is a powerful tool in fighting depression and despair, and that using one's imagination in the context of a group experience creates supportive, healing communities.

Board Member

Rating: 5

It has been my privilege and pleasure to serve as a CANY Board member for nearly four years now. As a veteran Communications professional of both the corporate and not-for-profit worlds, I can say wholeheartedly that CANY's excellent, dedicated, magnificently effective theater artists and drama therapists redefine "communications.” Specifically, these remarkable professionals use “metaphor” as a healing tool in a group context with individuals who have suffered emotional trauma: girls who have been sexually trafficked; women seeking shelter from domestic violence AND their children; refugees whose whole lives have been literally uprooted, teens who have been demonized by the world for being caught in a cycle of violence and anger. The CANY professionals are tireless in the art and science of their craft, fairly breathing life and health – through the gift of creativity -- into individuals who have been labeled and marginalized by nearly everyone else – and who suffer trauma on an ongoing basis, some from the time of their earliest memories. What dumbfounds me is the sustained, unflagging passion and energy with which the CANY staff perform their work – putting their hearts, souls, and brilliance into bringing health – through creativity – to individuals in several groups a day (I was exhausted just from reading the schedule). Each time I attend a group, I am moved to tears by what happens: the light goes on in the eyes of a young teen who has been pegged as a hopeless troublemaker, as he announces the role he has chosen for himself: a father who fiercely protects his kids from a gang. A young girl sitting quietly in the corner plays a role where she comforts another child and tells her “you’re safe now with me. I won’t let those men hurt you anymore.” I am so grateful to work with CANY and support what is nothing short of miracles that happen on a daily basis. And as a Board member, I am also struck by how CANY’s Executive Director Jonathan Hilton runs the organization with the skills of a champion helmsman at the wheel of a multi-masted ship: with skill, grace and clarity, supporting and encouraging, always inspiring staff and Board to work together and sail on to new destinations.

Review from Guidestar

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I am an art therapist who has worked with CANY for many years, both as a clinician in the field with them and as a member of the board. I can attest wholeheartedly to the high level of commitment and professionalism that the members of the staff have. The enthusiasm and compassion which the staff emits is a moving to observe. The people with whom they work are invigorated and inspired to move in new directions that are powerful to see. Any grant which CANY received would be put to great use, helping some of the most under-served populations in NYC.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

i had the pleasure to be an intern at CANY several years ago. Their work touches many disadvantaged groups of people and is a rich experience for clients and facilitators alike.
CANY's work gives a voice to people who ordinarily do not have one, it is creative, empowering and helps to bring about a true sense of community to those it serves.

Review from Guidestar

Board Member

Rating: 5

As the newest member of the CANY board, I recently sat in on two workshops at a residential treatment center for emotionally troubled youth to experience a session first hand. The power of drama therapy was readily apparent to me as I watched the CANY professionals guide these youngsters through improvisation scenarios that recreated real life situations. The environment allowed participants to feel safe as they explored otherwise challenging scenarios, similar to what they often confronted in their own personal experiences. CANY professionals knew when to push and when to hold back. Under their amazing guidance, the students were able to explore difficult yet familiar situations while learning how to experiment with more positive outcomes. I came away from these sessions further convinced of the powerful role of drama improvisation in helping individuals deal with and overcome the traumas and emotional scars that challenge them.

Review from Guidestar

Donor

Rating: 5

CANY is a shining example of the arts as a healing force and a practical, down to earth response to trauma and suffering. As a donor, I know that every penny I give will go to funding vital, life-giving programs for children and adults who have lived through unimaginable horror. As a mental health professional, I support the work of CANY in its humanity- affirming task. Having visited a site and participated in a session, I know that CANY provides a forum for clients to be who they are outside of the label of patient or even student, by allowing them through drama to experience choosing their circumstances and creating their responses. I hope that CANY continues its important work and that more and more people can experience this powerful tool for recovery, resilience-building, and joy.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I have been to several benefits for CANY and I am always so moved to hear the inspirational stories from the people that CANY has helped. The Arts can heal and giving people access to the Arts and therefore themselves is such a wonderful approach. CANY really facilitates an amazing change in the lives of the people they work with.

Review from Guidestar

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

In a city with many service organizations serving many populations, CANY is truly unique. The diversity of their programs, clients and functions makes them a priceless resource for their clients, as well as for professionals hoping to learn from CANY's staff and bring similar creative healing to their communities in NYC and beyond.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Creative Alternatives of New York provides opportunity, growth and equality through creative expression. The CANY method is unlike any other form of creative arts therapy I have ever encountered. It is truly one-of-a-kind and the staff is the heart and soul of the organization. I had the esteemed privilege of interning there last fall in 2010. The knowledge and tools I left with are invaluable. I am still applying what I learned at CANY to my professional work today.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Creative Alternatives is one of the most dynamic, unique and important organizations out there. About 3 years ago, I had the honor of completing my clinical internship as a drama therapist at CANY and was subsequently offered a full-time position. What amazes me to this day is how a small but dedicated organization can have a profound impact on so many individuals and the wider community. CANY operates from a simple tenet: theater has the power to instill hope, facilitate personal growth and be the conduit of change. In CANY groups, I saw a teen mother rediscover and embrace her own inner child; I watched a rowdy bunch of African refugee teenagers ground themselves in the telling of their stories from home; I witnessed an isolated, acutely psychotic schizophrenic man connect to others and to himself when taking on the role of Martin Luther King, Jr in a scene. CANY's group leaders and administrative team are some of the hardest workers, most compassionate therapists, and most gifted artists I have encountered in and out of my professional life. They work not because they want thanks or credit, but because they know that their quiet work makes a loud impact in the lives of the communities they serve and they believe that there is potential for inner and outer change in forgotten places and people.

Review from Guidestar

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

With continued cutbacks in budgeting in providing care these days, it is so gratifying to know that Creative Alternatives of New York is still here for us serving our Mental Health Patient Care Center at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in the Bronx. Their gifted artists show up every week, first thing Monday morning, and somehow buoy up our patients, some of whom have endured weekends characterized by isolation and loneliness.

Dusty and Theresa, those outstanding artists whom our patients have come to know, trust and yes, love, are always dependable, full of exciting and interesting ideas, ready to engage and motivate even the most reluctant participants. Like the Pied Piper, they never force our patients to do anything and always have the greatest respect for their limitations. They generate so much energy and enthusiasm that our patients willingly follow their lead. I especially appreciate the times I can squeeze in a lunch with Dusty and Theresa to learn more about the sessions and to review clinical issues together. The are able to give me feedback about some of the patients that I would have no way of knowing. Emily Nash, at CANY, continues to be the magician behind the curtain who gives outstanding clinical supervision over the years.

Unlike the other two groups that Creative Alternatives staff run here (the psych inpatient unit and the Substance Recovery Services program), my patients are primarily diagnosed with schizophrenia, many of whom evidence flat affect and withdrawal. This is not always evident when you observe their animation and, in some cases, spontaneity in the CANY groups. We never say thank you often enough. So once again, a heartfelt thanks to the staff at CANY for providing this highly valued service to our veterans. We are grateful for all they do to enrich the lives of our veterans.

We are now starting to see some of the vets back from deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq who could benefit greatly from your groups.
Some went off to serve our country with dedication and hope for the future but sadly returned with issues affecting their mental health.
Creative Alternatives groups on site here are a wonderful way of using drama as a healing tool for our walking wounded.

Review from Guidestar

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

CANY is the kind of organization that touches the lives of many people on a daily basis and in just minutes or overtime makes significant effects on their lives. I've witnessed all those effects to be positive ones and I think it is understood by many how important it is to bring out what is positive within each individual in today's society. CANY does that with the kind of expertise that I have always respected and have had a great deal of appreciation for.

Review from Guidestar

Advisor

Rating: 4

I did pro-bono consulting work for CANY in helping them design their Strategic Planning Process. During the course of that project I learnt a lot about CANY and great work they do. I was really impressed by their mission, their delivery methods and specially by so many wonderful people who are dedicated to doing such great work.

Review from Guidestar

Advisor

Rating: 5

CANY uses creative techniques to help people express themselves and through self-expression - heal themselves. It is an amazing blend of creativity, therapy and group dynamics for people who may have never found their voices before and even more possibly have never had those voices heard before.

A few years back, I was asked to donate some time and my professional knowledge to help the CANY board and leadership address the problems of defining their brand and projecting that brand to all CANY's existing and potential audiences.

I expected the usual egos to show up around the table. No egos arrived. Only dedicated, smart, enjoyable people thoroughly in love with what they are doing and the people they are helping.

We got a great deal done in an efficient amount of time. And they all went back to the hands-on business of helping those who need help.

I have followed CANY - its constant commitment and its steady growth - ever since.

Review from Guidestar