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When staff members at the Senior Health and Consultation Center met Mary, she was very depressed, facing eviction and living on a small social security stipend. After a fairly successful career as a writer, she began to decline in health after a second novel was panned by the critics. Living alone, Mary had little support during this difficult time, and began to further isolate herself from others.
After beginning treatment with the Senior Health and Consultation Center, they put her on a regimented therapy session and also began treating her for primary care in the house. The staff at the center then helped to negotiate with the landlord to set up a schedule for past-due payments, and connected her with a stipend for senior women who worked as artists or writers to help augment her monthly income. With treatment and the knowledge that she could remain safe in her home that she had known for the majority of her later years, Mary began to emerge from her depression, becoming active in her therapy sessions. If it were not for the Center, in the face of eviction, there is no telling how her case would have progressed.
"It's a very nice place to be able to talk through things, like situations I'm having difficulty with, or when I'm just needing support. There are people I can turn to, which is really marvelous."
Joseph was only three when he witnessed his mother being brutally beaten by his father. In the scene that ensued he saw the police come to the home and his mother placed in an ambulance before he himself was taken to stay with an aunt. Afterwards, he showed behaviors characteristic of many young boys who have witnessed domestic violence-hyperactivity, a tendency to lash out aggressively towards other children, and angry, rejecting behavior towards his mother. His mother, herself in a state of traumatic stress, interpreted this as evidence that he was "just like his father." She withdrew emotionally, and in turn, Joseph became even angrier and more aggressive.
Play therapy made it possible for Joseph to express feelings that he was not yet capable of putting into words-his own fears of abandonment, a belief that being male meant being aggressive, anger that mother could not protect herself or him, and his need for mother's nurture at a time when it was difficult for her to provide it. He repeatedly played out the confusion he felt because he still loved his father despite what had occurred, and his therapist assured him that it was possible to feel both love and anger towards the same person.
At the same time, Joseph's mother received needed support, as well as education about the ways children responded to trauma. She became able to see Joseph as a confused three year old rather than a replica of his father, and to respond to him with loving behavior rather than by pulling away. Eventually she was able to understand, if not actually accept, his continued love for his father and they were able to get their relationship on a better track while Joseph was able to calm down both at home and in preschool.
Marisa had been 14 when she was subject to a brutal sexual assault, a victim of mistaken identity in a gang dispute. Short term counseling had enabled her to get over the worst of her post traumatic symptoms, but three years later, the changes in her personality and belief system continued to be crippling. Marisa was depressed and found it hard to concentrate. She saw herself as permanently damaged, different in every way from all her peers. She seemed to put herself in dangerous situations intentionally, as a way of proving to herself that she could master them. Because of the shame and secrecy she maintained around the assault, it was hard to her to form close relationships with friends.
Unfortunately, Marisa's family was unable to provide the kind of support that would have helped her recover. However, through her treatment she was able to recognize that she was not defined by one horrendous incident that was not her fault. She was able to reach out selectively to people whom she felt she could trust, and come to have far more hopeful expectations about her own future.
Paul came to see Greenwich House as one of the few consistent things in his life, and expressed feelings of being nurtured and "at home" here. For Christmas, his therapist presented him with a set of Legos, just like the one he loved to play with during his sessions. She told him-as we always do-that the gift was "from Greenwich House." Paul took this to mean that the entire staff participated in choosing the gift-and every time he met a new staff member, he would thank that person enthusiastically for his Legos.
After a very long time, Paul's behavior calmed down. Finally he was able to unburden himself in words, and he told his therapist his secret-that he truly believed himself responsible for failing to protect his mother. This began a long process where Paul was helped to recognize that as a little boy, he could not have possibly done anything to alter the terrible chain of events. Eventually he was able to express his grief at the loss of his mother. Nobody could heal completely from such a terrible tragedy, but Paul's treatment has made it possible for him to deal with his loss with as little permanent damage as possible.
*Names have been changed
"Before recovery, you're lost. You have nothing. You have no hope. You're trying to climb out of a hole and you can't. I'm not isolated anymore. It's given me my family back. That is because of the recovery that I received from Greenwich House."
"This is the longest that I've stayed out of jail in 5 years, thanks to the help at Greenwich House; the patient part-the 'take it easies,' you know, 'it's gonna be all right.' I'm grateful for this place; I feel safe here."
"From pottery to yoga to cooking - the types of things that they're learning, I never imagined a three or four year old could learn. The teachers are fantastic. It's just a wonderful community all around."
- Kristine Sui
"At Barrow Street Nursery School, if you can think of it, you can do it. The community in the school is really something. After all my years, I've never experienced anything like it. It's magnificent."
- Veta Fields, Teacher
"One of the great things about Greenwich House has been a way to connect with the community. It's a really nice way to get to know everyone in a structured and creative program."
- Lisa Dow
"Our goal is really to create the continuous learning experience, so it's not just learning music in the classroom, but carrying through to their lives. All the families that come here love the beauty."
- Mimi Hsu, Instructor
"I used to practice at Greenwich House when I first moved to New York and didn't have an apartment...the $10 arrangement made my first eight months in New York bearable, and I was able to get my feet on the ground musically and financially because of it. I'm so thankful for that!"
- Claire Chase, Flutist and Executive Director and co-founder of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE)
"The cultural community is an underpinning of the whole presence here. Concerts and music and theater discussions - I like that."
About Greenwich House
Greenwich House is a registered 501 c(3) organization and a member of the United Neighborhood Houses of New York. If you are interested in learning more about the network of settlement houses and the work they do, click here.
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Contact Greenwich HouseGreenwich House Administrative Office
122 West 27th Street, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10001