Meet Our Staff

" Self Discovery, Making the Right Choices, Feeling Good"

Our Staff

Dr. Audrey Freshman, PhD, LCSW, CASAC

Dr. Audrey Freshman, PhD, LCSW, CASAC

Chief Executive and Clinical Director

Dr. Audrey Freshman, PhD, LCSW, CASAC 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, Dr. 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.

Dr. 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. Dr. 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.

Dr. Maria N. Alikakos, DO

Dr. Maria N. Alikakos, DO

Medical Director

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 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.

Richard C. Brigandi, MA

Director of Finance & Operations, Human Resources

Rich Brigandi earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from Dowling College, with an emphasis in accounting.Prior to joining the New York Center for Life team, Rich started his career working in the for-profit world first as a metals buyer for a family-owned grommet manufacturing company and then an international bicycle manufacturer. Rich started his non-profit management career in 1993 at Body Positive, Inc., an AIDS health service agency as their business manager. While working for Body Positive, he gained knowledge and insight into the workings of a not-for-profit agency. His professional experience continued in 2000 when he joined The Vocational Foundation, Inc., an out-of-school youth job training program, as their Chief Financial Officer. After 10 years Rich was promoted to interim Executive Director as the agency restructured and eventually merged with FEDCAP. In June 2011 Rich joined the team at NYCFL as their Director of Finance & Operations and Human Resources, where he manages the fiscal operations, works with families regarding insurance and billing and is part of the senior management team. Rich was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. He attended Brooklyn Technical High School in downtown Brooklyn before moving to Holbrook, Long Island, where he currently resides with his husband of 29 years.

John McAteer, LCSW-R

John McAteer, LCSW-R


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.

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 from and his MSW from Fordham University.

Elaine G. Dolan, LCSW-R

Director of Admissions

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.

Cindy Leinwand, LCSW,CASAC

Director of Family Services

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,j 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.

Jillian D’Ornellas, LMFT

Family Coordinator Adolescent Programming

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.

Nicole O’Brien, MFT-LP

Family Therapist

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.

Antonio Carratelli, MA, MFT-LP, RYT, CNWC

Family Therapist

Antonio utilizes a holistic, humanistic, relational approach with clients so they may feel empowered and capable of enacting meaningful change in their relationships. He employs a strategic, systemic approach and pulls from Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Internal Family Systems, and Narrative Therapy. Antonio is passionate about helping individuals craft a life of meaning and fulfillment through connection. He is a certified Yoga Instructor, Reiki Practitioner, and Nutrition and Wellness Coach. After earning his B.S. in Applied Psychology from New York University he studied Organizational Psychology, Motivation and Leadership before pursuing his M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy from Hofstra University. He has previously worked for YES Community Counseling Center, an outpatient setting for individuals and their family members, where he facilitated Stress Management groups.

Colby Kossoy, MHC-LP

Primary Therapist

Colby brings a unique background of education, client services, and counseling to her role as primary therapists. After earning a Bachelor’s of Science from Vanderbilt University and spending time in the fields of teaching and lifestyle advisory work with individuals, couples and families, Colby earned a Masters of Arts in Mental Health Counseling from New York University. Colby has advanced training in motivational interviewing and is receiving advanced training in dialectical behavioral therapy.

Shannon Gunter, LMSW

Primary Therapist/Admissions

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.

Jeffry Daviero, LCSW, CCTP


Jeffry recognizes the value of synthesizing parts of self in adopting holistic health that emanates from his own personal blending of musical creativity and athletic fitness. Jeffry has been a social worker since 2012 and is trained and certified in EMDR, DBT, CBT, motivational interviewing, and other various modalities. He began his career at Northland Church where he was an intake coordinator for Barack Obama’s spiritual advisor, Dr. Joel Hunter. Prior to coming to NYCFL, Jeffry worked as a primary therapist at Inter-Care, an esteemed intensive outpatient substance use disorder program in NYC. Having spent many years in Florida, he also worked in the inpatient residential settings of The Recovery Village and Lakeview Health. He is licensed in the state of Florida and New York and earned both his BSW and MSW at the University of Central Florida. Jeffry has played an integrative role at NYCFL since 2018 and is passionate about treating trauma and co-occurring substance use disorders with adolescents and young adults.

Ben Mushlin, MSW

Primary Therapist

Ben employs a strengths-based, holistic style of therapy that allows clients to understand their behaviors and empowers them to achieve significant sustainable change. Ben began his career in addiction treatment working in sober living residences throughout New York City providing peer support to residents before moving into recovery coaching and case management. While leading a non-fatal opioid overdose response team with the Department of Health, Ben earned his Master of Social Work Degree from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. Much of Ben’s work has focused on treating individuals with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. Ben has training in multiple modalities including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Crisis Intervention and Management, Motivational Interviewing, and Psychodynamic Therapy.

Steven Dewey, PhD

Director of Research Education and Training

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.

Emil Achmad M.D., M.S.

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.

Komal Nayak, M.D.

Dr. Komal Nayak is a psychiatrist specializing in psychotherapy and pharmacological treatment. She works with adolescents and young adults to achieve their goal of abstinence when it comes to substance use. The goal is to build skills to help them in their path to recovery. Currently, she is also a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health. Dr. Nayak is a faculty member of the NYU School of Medicine. She created a course named “Weed: The Science and Psychology of Marijuana,” and taught undergraduate students at NYU College of Arts & Science. She published a review paper named “Exploring Interventions for Sleep Disorders in Adolescent Cannabis Users.” Dr. Nayak is also a clinical psychiatrist at Steven A. Cohen’s Military Family Clinic at NYU Langone, where she strives to provide mental health treatment to veterans and their children. She also works in Bellevue’s Children’s Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program where she handles psychiatric emergencies.

Joseph Mutz, MS, RD, CDN

Registered Dietician

Joseph is a registered dietitian who completed his graduate degree at NYU, earning a master’s in clinical nutrition. Joseph believes food and nutrition are the foundation of physical and mental well-being. Through his practice Joseph has found that an individual’s daily food choices have the ability to prevent chronic disease, elevate mood, improve concentration, enhance sleep and promote overall well-being. Joseph’s goal is to educate individuals in making more nutritious choices. Joseph advocates for a minimally processed, nutrient-dense diet. Joseph works as a dietitian for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and holds an undergraduate degree in nutrition and food studies from NYU.

Agustin McCarthy

Yoga Instructor

Agustin has been leading yoga and mindfulness sessions at New York Center for Living since 2011. As an advanced certified yoga teacher, he has seen through first-hand experience how the practices of yoga and meditation can foster a greater sense of ease and balance. Agustin completed the Yoga of Recovery certification with Durga Leela at the Sivananda Ashram where he trained to use Ayurvedic practices to help those in recovery. His teaching has been strongly influenced by the meditation retreats he has attended with Pema Chodron and Tara Brach. He is currently studying with Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach in the Power of Awareness program, a mindfulness training focused on bringing the intrinsic qualities of heart and mind into our daily lives.

Jamie Adges LCAT, RDT

Creative Art Therapist

Jamie offers a unique, creative, and expressive approach to recovery and treatment as a licensed creative arts therapist, registered drama therapist, and certified yoga/ meditation teacher. Jamie believes in the importance of the creative process in recovery and utilizes tools such as music, art, drama, and movement to provide clients with a holistic and varied approach to treatment. Jamie’s experience includes providing creative arts therapy in schools, rehabilitation centers, psychiatric units, and with teens and young adults in private practice. Jamie received her BA in Theater and Psychology from Muhlenberg College and her MA in Drama Therapy from Roehampton University in London.

Amanda Lehrer, MSW

Business Development Consultant

Amanda earned her master’s degree in Social Work from Case Western Reserve University and her bachelor’s in Social Work from Mercyhurst University. As a Social Worker with over 20 years of experience, Amanda has had the opportunity to use her clinical skills in a variety of different settings. These include: designing disaster mental health preparedness and response curriculums, development and delivering mental health trainings, counseling adolescents in residential and community settings, working with Region II Head Start Programs as the Mental Health Content Specialist, being the Regional Outreach Specialist for CRC Health Group and the Northeast Clinical Outreach Specialist for Constellations Behavioral Health. In her recent work she was the Strategic Manager of Clinical Outreach at Ellenhorn, which is a psychosocial recovery program located in NYC, Boston, and Raleigh.

In a world often overwhelmed with mental health and problematic substance abuse issues, Amanda strongly believes that we as a community need to continually advocate for those who are suffering. She believes clients need to be partners throughout the entire process of their recovery. The reason she was drawn to Center for Living is we strongly believe that “not all who wander are lost”. We all need opportunities in life and for someone who believes in us during our often-chaotic journey into adulthood. Amanda is an activist and advocate for those who are often voiceless. She not only carries this in her day at work, but she makes sure to share this energy and enthusiasm with her three children.

“New York Center for Living saved my daughter’s life.”


Contact Us Today!

226 E 52nd Street,
New York, NY 10022.
  (212) 712-8800