Meet Our Team
None of our work would be possible without our team of innovative leaders, and some of New York’s most respected clinicians with decades of experience in their field. Our team all share a passion to help young adults, adolescents and their families to succeed in finding sustainable recovery and a fulfilling life.
Our clinical team consists of many highly valued members of our staff. Our primary therapists take a unique and compassionate approach to treatment that allows them to connect with our patients on a deeper level. We support our verbal therapies with experiential experiences that enhance and vitalize our approaches. From our registered dietician who guides us to a healthy relationship with food, to our art therapist who connects all of us to the healing nature of creativity, to music, yoga, picnics and more, our staff join forces to enhance all dimensions of each person’s experience.
It is the dedication of all the members of our staff that enable us to do the amazing work that we do every single day. We rely upon the support of our dedicated administrative staff and our cleaning staff to provide the foundation for our work and a sense of safety and well-being for all of us.
Our foundation and the donations received by the public allow us to continue to offer accessible and affordable care to the young adults and adolescents who need it most.
CEO & Chief Clinical Officer
Audrey Freshman, PhD, LCSW
Audrey Freshman, PhD, LCSW brings to NYCFL a vision that is derivative of a profession that has converged on all of the foundational theories, practices and ideals that will continue to make our center the premier treatment facility for adolescents, young adults and their families. Her life work has included a blend of psychiatric knowledge first gleaned at NYS Psychiatric Institute, followed by decades of practice in the field of substance use disorder. Most notably, Freshman served as Associate Director at a major Long-Island based non-profit NYS OASAS program targeting adolescents and young adults where she helped to create and oversee a school/family/community-based model of treatment.
Since 2011, her knowledge of contemporary research and evidence-based practices have been accelerated in her position as Director of Continuing Education and Director of the Postgraduate Program in Addictions at Adelphi University. During her tenure at Adelphi, she has been a leader in the academic field in offering the highest quality education and postgraduate certificate training, collaborating extensively with local and national treatment providers to meet the needs of mental health professionals throughout the tri-state area and beyond.
Freshman has published and presented extensively on the subject of adolescent addiction and has conducted research on the intergenerational transmission of PTSD as a risk factor for substance use disorder. Freshman received her B.A. from NYU in psychology, her M.S. in Social Work from Columbia University and her PhD in Clinical Social Work from New York University.
Eric D. Collins, MD
Dr. Collins completed his undergraduate studies in economics at Yale in 1984, following which he spent two years teaching chemistry and physics at Tabor Academy, a private high school for boarding and day school students in Marion, MA. In 1986, Dr. Collins enrolled at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, where he earned his MD in 1990 and subsequently stayed to complete his postgraduate residency training in Psychiatry and fellowships in both Addiction Psychiatry and Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry. Dr. Collins then joined the psychiatry faculty at Columbia and pursued addiction research, including the publication as the first author in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2005 of a landmark clinical trial comparing heroin detoxification methods, including anesthesia-assisted detoxification.
In 2005, Dr. Collins became the Medical Director of Substance Abuse Services at New York-Presbyterian, a role in which he provided direct care to and administrative oversight for patients struggling with addiction, both at the Columbia medical campus of New York-Presbyterian and at the Columbia midtown outpatient treatment center. In 2012, Dr. Collins accepted the opportunity to become the Physician-in-Chief at Silver Hill Hospital, a private, not-for-profit psychiatric hospital in New Canaan, CT, where he oversaw and helped improve and advance psychiatric care, particularly addiction care, in their inpatient, residential, and outpatient settings. In November 2019, Dr. Collins joined the Metropolitan Center for Mental Health, a community mental health center in New York City, as its Medical Director. In September 2021, Dr. Collins joined the New York Center for Living as Medical Director, a role in which he continues to serve.
Dr. Collins is board certified in Psychiatry, Addiction Psychiatry, and Addiction Medicine. He has published over 30 articles and book chapters, and he has extensive experience caring for psychiatric patients, particularly those with addiction and co-occurring mental and physical illnesses. In addition, Dr. Collins lectures in pharmacology teaches students and fellows at the Columbia Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and maintains a private practice of general and addiction psychiatry.
Director of Education & Training
Maria N. Alikakos, MD
Dr. Maria N. Alikakos comes to NYCFL with the mission of delivering a tailored and holistic treatment approach using patient centered evidence-based medicine combined with extensive psychiatric knowledge. Her ability to offer individualized and highly-specialized care stems from the unique blend of actively practicing in four different treatment settings — inpatient, outpatient, emergency, and primary care. Dr. Alikakos places tremendous value in truly understanding each person’s unique situation so she can form a genuine connection with patients and their families — this allows her to effectively offer superior care and achieve sustainable results. She develops a collaborative relationship with her patients inspiring them to become invested in their treatment plan and empowering them to succeed in their treatment goals.
Dr. Alikakos is an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinaiand an Attending Psychiatrist at the Mount Sinai Beth Israel psychiatric emergency room. She is also the Director of Behavioral Health at Community Health Initiatives, a primary care facility and federally qualified health center in Brooklyn where she led the integration of psychiatry and social work with primary care.
Dr. Alikakos completed her residency in General Adult Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai Health System, Beth Israel Medical Center followed by Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship training at The Mount Sinai Hospital where she was Chief Fellow. She then focused on Addiction Medicine leading to the position of Director of Psychiatric Services at Realization Center outpatient chemical dependency program where she spent the last 7 years while also being an Attending Psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital. Dr. Alikakos spent a significant part of her practice training residents and fellows in psychiatry and addiction medicine. Dr. Alikakos has a special interest in Global Medicine and is the CEO of The Global Physicians Corps, a non-profit organization she co-founded in 2006.
Vice President of Marketing & Communications
Pamela Alvich, BA
Pamela Alvich worked in the fashion industry for many years and became involved with the recovery industry after assisting colleagues needing help with substance use. When she left the fashion industry, she volunteered at Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, Connecticut, which led to becoming their Director of Clinical Outreach in New York City. While at Silver Hill Hospital, she was mentored by psychiatrists and clinicians which proved to be invaluable when speaking to clinicians, families and consumers. She is passionate about helping families and has become a trusted resource in the community.
Pamela has known about New York Center for Living since its opening in 2007, and always felt she would be involved with the center at some point in her career. “Working at New York Center for Living is a labor of love for me and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
In addition to working at New York Center for Living, Pamela is the president of her co-op board and is the National Chairman of Development for NSDAR. She earned her BA in Political Science from Syracuse University.
Director of Admissions
Elaine G. Dolan, LCSW-R
Elaine brings to NYCFL years of experience gleaned in working with adolescents, young adults and their families in a variety of settings including outpatient treatment programs, school-based programs and in her private practice. Her skills include the ability to engage in assessment across a variety of multi-diagnostic presentations including anxiety, mood disorders, learning disabilities and addiction challenges. She holds an Addiction Specialist Certificate from Adelphi University and has taught classes in a Certified Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor training program. Elaine is aware of the impact of stress on families and individuals and also incorporates mindfulness and stress reduction into her work with individuals and their families. She has a BA and MSW from Adelphi University.
Jonathan Buchsbayew, LCSW
Jonathan has worked in the field of substance abuse and addiction since 2005. He served as clinical supervisor at OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services where he was responsible for the integration, training and oversight of DBT into the clinical programming. He also served as clinical coordinator at The Living Room, a Brooklyn based program for young adults in recovery. Jonathan is trained in CBT, DBT, and EMDR. He is an adjunct professor at Touro University. He co-authored Stepping out of the abyss: A Jewish guide to recovery (Mosaica Press, 2017). He received his BA and his MSW from Fordham University.
Director of Family Services
Cindy Leinwand, LCSW, CASAC
Cindy Leinwand has devoted her professional life to working in the field of substance use disorder. She has done this in a variety of settings that include schools, community based programs and private practice. She began her career as a school social worker and clinician at a prominent Long Island New York State OASAS funded non-profit agency. During her long tenure there, she became the Director of Prevention and School Services. In that role, she was responsible for prevention programming and supervision of the agency’s school social workers in multiple Long Island school districts. She was a liaison to several social work graduate schools and had oversight of field placements and training of students. She also had a key role as a clinician in the agency’s family program. She worked with adolescents, young adults and families running parent and multi-family groups. Her commitment to team work and collaboration grew out of her many years of work in this setting.
Cindy Leinwand’s most recent professional role was as an addiction specialist at an acclaimed Long Island community center. The center offered social, cultural educational and health and wellness services. She was recruited to launch a new program. The program offered support to individuals struggling with substance use concerns and to those who would benefit from health and wellness services as part of their aftercare in recovery. Assessments, referrals, family support, and community education programs were a key part of her work. This position gave her the opportunity to attend an immersion program with the residents and staff of a spiritually based residential addiction treatment center. It was an inspiring model of a mind, body and soul approach to healing. She brings the inspiration and teachings from this experience to her work at The Center for Living. Cindy Leinwand obtained a BA in Psychology from Syracuse University and her MSW from Adelphi University.
COORDINATOR OF YOUNG ADULT PROGRAM
John McAteer, LCSW
Mr. McAteer’s current position is enhanced by his prior experience as both an Adjunct Professor as well as the Director of Training and Evaluation at the Institute for Adolescent Trauma Treatment and Training at Adelphi University School of Social Work. He is certified in Structured Psychotherapy for Adolescents Responding to Chronic Stress (SPARCS) and is an OASAS-certified trainer in Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT). Formerly on staff at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, he has provided evidenced-based training for substance use and mental health throughout the five boroughs. He is a frequent guest speaker on the issues concerning the vaping epidemic. He has his MS in social work from Columbia University and his BA from Adelphi University.
COORDINATOR OF FAMILY AND ADOLESCENT PROGRAM
Jillian D’Ornellas, LMFT
Jillian began working with adolescents and their families through the PINS Diversion program in Nassau County, serving as both a family therapist and clinical case manager. She then shifted to work with adolescents and their families at Outreach Development Project as a family therapist and primary counselor. Jillian is certified in evidence-based practices for adolescents including Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT) and the Strengthening Families Program (SFP), as well as trained in Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT). Jillian holds a B.A. in Psychology from Binghamton University and an M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy from Hofstra University.
Coordinator Alumni Relations/Primary Therapist
Peter Newland, CASAC
Peter’s work in the field of chemical dependency spans 25 years, first with Phoenix House as a case manager with adolescents and then Director of Adolescent Ambulatory Services where he supervised several outpatient modalities; that included peer groups, multi-family groups and individual sessions. Peter then helped develop a chemical dependency program at Harlem East Life Plan which assessed and treated individuals with the goal of abstinence from alcohol and drugs. In a multidisciplinary setting Peter was the “Coordinator of Adolescent Services at Realization Center, Co –facilitating Family Group, Peer Groups and family workshops.
Peter has conducted numerous seminars and presentations to schools, parent groups, hospitals and mental health professionals. Topics have covered substance abuse and teens, detecting early warning signs for a teen in need of a intervention, how to engage a teen and his/ her family in treatment, and strategies for long term recovery.
Indie Cusack, LMSW
Indie Cusack (they/them) is passionate about providing clinical support to people with a range of identities and experiences. Their professional experience includes substantial experience working with people with serious and persistent mental illnesses, neurodivergent people, and people in the LGBTQIAA+ community. Indie is a strong proponent of using a variety of therapeutic approaches to make clinical care accessible to people who may not respond well to conventional methods. Indie has received their BA in Child Development at Sarah Lawrence College and a MSW from Silberman School of Social Work.
Dan DeCotiis, LMSW, CASAC-T
Dan DeCotiis, LMSW, CASAC-T is a primary therapist with extensive personal and professional experience working with young adults and adolescents struggling with substance abuse and mental health. After receiving his master’s degree in Social Work from Fordham University, he has dedicated himself to helping young people rebuild their lives and achieve their goals. Dan found recovery at 20 years old and now has 12 years of sobriety which he credits with giving him a second chance at life. He has worked extensively with crisis intervention, case management, group, and individual therapy, and specializes in motivational interviewing and a strengths-based approach to clinical work.
Shannon Gunter, LMSW
Shannon uses a non-judgmental and strengths-based approach with her clients, empowering them to take ownership of their life story so that they can move forward with positive healthy change. She entered the field of addiction at The Baywood Center, an intensive outpatient substance use disorder clinic in Queensbury, New York. There, she developed and facilitated the relapse prevention group therapy curriculum. She continued her work at Sanctuary for Families, a domestic violence agency in New York City, providing trauma-informed counseling, crisis intervention, and vocational/career counseling to survivors of gender-based violence. She received her BS in Dance and Social Work from Skidmore College and her MS in Social Work at Columbia University.
Nicole O’Brien, MFT-LP
Nicole O’Brien has a B.A. in Psychology and a M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy from Hofstra University. Nicole is passionate about working with families, specifically families with adolescents and young adults. She started out interning jointly for Nassau Haven, a runaway and homeless youth shelter for adolescents, and the Detention Diversion Program in Nassau County. Nicole then went on to work as a Multisystemic Family Therapist in Queens, NY. Nicole has specialized training in Motivational Interviewing, Trauma Informed Care, and Substance Abuse and Contingency Management.
Gil Weiss, LMSW
Gil Weiss is passionate about the field of addiction and recovery as a result of his own personal and professional experience. Gil began his work in the field as a Recovery Technician at Transcend Recovery, a sober living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He enjoyed working with young adults struggling with addiction and co-occurring disorders and was eager to learn more, which influenced him to pursue a master’s degree at NYU Silver School of Social Work. Within the Master’s Program at NYU, Gil was part of the Substance Use Focused Learning Opportunity which is a specialized program focused on clinical work with individuals diagnosed with a substance use disorder. Gil also gained valuable field experience as a Clinical Intern at Inter-Care, an OASAS licensed outpatient treatment center in Manhattan.
Gil understands that many young people are ambivalent about sobriety. Thus, he uses a Strengths Based approach and Motivational Interviewing skills to assess a client’s readiness for change.
Peer Recovery Support
Shanna Fried has been in the field of substance abuse and mental illness for over a decade. Shanna was a teenager when she found sobriety 20 years ago and found a new way of life at a young age. Therefore, through her personal journey, she found strength in working with the younger community and finds rewards in every part of the work she does with each client. Coaching is guiding someone where they can’t get on their own. It is change and learning. I am a coach because of the passion I have. There is no other feeling than helping others to open their eyes from where they have been shut for so long. Each person holds so much power within themselves that needs to be let out; we do this together. Sometimes a person just needs a little nudge, a little direction, a little support, a little coaching, and the greatest things can happen.
Peer Recovery Support
Taylor Taxin has worked in the recovery industry since 2017. She started at a sober living facility in Tribeca and during that time found her real passion in peer coaching and being a sober companion. Since she has been in recovery for several years, she knows first-hand what her clients are going through and can help them through their recovery. In her spare time, Taylor practices kundalini yoga, travels, spends time with friends and lives life to the fullest.
Emil Achmad MD, MS
Dr. Achmad earned a B.S. in Human Biology from the University of California, San Diego and went on to obtain an M.S. in Pharmacology from Tulane University. Dr. Achmad earned his M.D. from Tulane University School of Medicine and is now completing his residency in General Adult Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine Mount Sinai Beth Israel program. He is the Chief Resident at Mount Sinai Beth Israel and a consultant psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital. Dr. Achmad actively practices individualized evidence-based medicine in the inpatient, outpatient, and emergency settings and has developed a focused interest in addiction medicine in young adults.
Director of Research Education and Training
Stephen Dewey, PhD
Dr. Dewey joins our team as expert consultant, educator and trainer dealing with the impact of substances upon the adolescent brain. In addition to serving as a consult to NYCFL as well as Seafield Center, Dr. Dewey is the Director and Investigator at the Laboratory for Behavioral and Molecular Neuroimaging at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research at Northwell. Most recently, he served as a Research Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine. During his 24-year tenure at Brookhaven National laboratory he conducted research on the effects of addictive drugs on the human brain and in 1994 he started an outreach program brining his research finding to school districts throughout the United States. Dr. Dewey is interested in developing innovative models of addictive treatment and his approach is under Phase III clinical trials across the United States. He completed his education in graduate medicine at University of Iowa and his postdoctoral fellowship in Neurology Department at Stony Brook University.