Maureen Sheehan, LMSW: Executive Director
As an educator and social worker, my career has been driven by a deep and encompassing belief in the empowerment of those among us who have been affected by poverty, addiction, mental illness, age, gender, sexual orientation and other social issues. In addition, I have followed the progress of arts and therapeutic integration in releasing the voices of those who have not been heard in our communities. I am committed to this project, which integrates creativity, self-expression and empowerment. I am interested in addressing issues for all people that revolve around photography in relation to empowerment and seeing self as a powerful change agent. I am particularly interested in how the absence of access to privilege in education and economics affects people and exploring the myriad benefits of a therapeutic arts approach. I am interested in ways of exploring and developing this connection particularly with those from less privileged, urban backgrounds who have struggled from substance abuse, addiction and other emotional and social consequences. I view the lens of the camera as a method for at once distancing and objectifying our uniquely subjective experiences, thereby developing capacity for introspection and change. Focal Point assists participants in learning to utilize this valuable connection through the lens of a camera.
Michelle Russell, LMSW: Group Facilitator
Michelle is a committed advocate for the empowerment and protection of vulnerable populations. She envisions a world where all children feel valued and encouraged to participate. It is her goal to help achieve this by contributing to the provision of education and providing support to youth and their communities. Over the past 10 years she has gained extensive experience working with youth and families in educational and therapeutic settings both locally and abroad.
Suzanne Scala, ATR, LPC: Group Facilitator
Suzanne is an art therapist, a licensed professional counselor, and an artist. She has been fortunate to explore working with diverse populations, in various settings throughout her journey to becoming an art therapist. Past experiences include working in schools and group homes with individuals and groups with intellectual and physical disabilities. She has worked within a clinical inpatient psychiatric and detox unit, at a therapeutic camp for children and adolescents with social, emotional, and behavioral issues, as well as a residential eating disorder treatment center. Over the course of this journey, and currently, she works in a private practice. Suzanne believes in the power of art therapy, as she has witnessed its ability to provide healing, self-awareness, insight and self-expression through the creation of art in the therapeutic process.
Katya C. Zajac, MAAT: Group Facilitator
Katya is an art therapist, with a passion for creative expression in all forms. She has experience working with diverse populations, ranging from veterans, to at risk youth, and persons with substance abuse issues. Katya believes everyone has the tools within them to create positive change, and is drawn to this field as a facilitator to encourage and support people through their process. As an artist herself, Katya personally understands the empowerment and healing through the arts.
Liz McDonald, LMSW: Group Facilitator
Lizzy is in pursuit of a new era where relationships and connection are at the core of our nation’s values. In a world of increasing violence, intolerance, and climate degradation, now is the time to engage in practices that bring people together, teach empathy, and empower individuals and groups to move towards a new paradigm. Lizzy received her Master’s of Social Work to commit herself to this work, with a special focus on bringing restorative justice and empathy building initiatives to our education system. She is excited to be part of the Focal Point team.
LesleyAchitoff, ATR-BC: Group Facilitator
Lesley is a Creative Arts Therapist Licensed in New York State since 2006. She has been privileged to witness the profound effects of this modality through her work in various locations, including her current position as the Director of Creative Arts Therapy on Rikers Island, NYC, working with men, women and adolescents.Through this program, the participants have gained insight, increased their motivation to move forward in their lives despite many setbacks and years of marginalization, regained contact with alienated family members, and developed renewed hope. Her team’s clients report that they leave the jail environment with a renewed feeling of connection, a commitment to manage their substance use challenges, new ways of managing difficult emotions, and an overall sense of empowerment to take control of their lives.
Lydia Mandell, ATR-BC, LPC: Group Facilitator
Lydia is an art therapist, licensed professional counselor, and breathwork coach who believes that connection and creativity are superpowers that exist within every human being. She is passionate about the idea that creativity is innately healing and empowering. Over the past 16 years, she has gained experience with individuals and groups from diverse populations including veterans, people living with substance abuse, addiction, mental health, and social concerns. As an artist herself, Lydia can attest to the healing power of the creative process. She is committed to supporting people throughout their creative process to access their own unique artistic voices to tell their personal stories from a place of empowerment and confidence.
Lorraine Murphy, LCAT, ATR-BC, LPC, ATCS: Group Facilitator
After receiving her Master’s degree in Art Therapy from New York University, Lorraine committed her efforts to working with families effected by mental illness. As a licensed creative arts therapist and licensed professional counselor, she currently manages a private practice and educates college level students about the therapeutic benefits of the expressive arts. Lorraine’s personal pursuit of the arts, more than 15 years experience serving clients and focus on the mind-body connection is the inspiration for her work with the Focal Point project.