Our Programs


CARING offers a range of programs serving three age groups: preschool children, elementary school children, and adolescents. CARING programs are conducted at a variety of partner sites, such as public elementary, middle, and high schools, Head Start early childhood programs, and other community centers.  All of our programs share the same fundamental goals of promoting mental health and resilience in at-risk youth through the creative arts, and fostering greater cultural awareness, pride, and tolerance.

Preschool Parent-Child Programs

The CARING at Columbia Parent-Child Program brings CARING's model of mental health promotion through the creative arts to at-risk preschool children and their families.  Developed through a partnership with Columbia University Head Start, the parent-child program is a 15-week model that focuses on the importance of creative and expressive play between parent and child.  The program is informed and inspired by contemporary attachment theory, social emotional learning theory, creative arts therapies, and behavioral parent training models.  Through parent group discussions and hands-on family activities, parents learn to strengthen and enhance the parent-child bond through interactive play, art, and music.  Parents learn and practice fundamental play skills as well as strategies to help their child to express and cope with difficult feelings.  The CARING at Columbia parent-child program also provides valuable training for psychiatry residents, psychology students, creative arts therapists, and other trainees learning about community-based early childhood mental health promotion. Currently the parent-child program is offered to families at local Head Start partnership sites.

Elementary School Programs 

CARING at Columbia’s Elementary School Program was the first program developed by CARING in 1988, and it continues to be offered in partner public schools in the Washington Heights, Harlem, and Chinatown neighborhoods in New York City.  The program serves children from grades 3 to 6, and is based on the manualized approach created by Dr. Ian Canino MD, Learning To Cope With Stress Through Art: An Ethnically Sensitive Model.  The weekly lessons engage the children in conversations about life stressors, help the children to explore and express their own unique identities, and foster understanding of culture and acceptance of cultural differences.  The children connect and explore themes through creative art activities, games, storytelling, dramatic play, and music.  Within these activities, the children learn skills for coping with difficult feelings and solving problems in their lives.  A core method taught in the program is a problem-solving strategy called “WE CAN DO”, an acronym that outlines simple steps to approaching problems, from defining the problem and brainstorming solutions, to deciding on a plan of action and evaluating outcomes.  It encourages individual approaches as well as cooperative group approaches to finding solutions.  The method empowers children by showing them that they can make a positive difference in their lives, and that help is available from those around them.

Children’s Day Unit (CDU)/Adolescent Day Treatment at New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI)

CARING at Columbia has delivered services at the adolescent day treatment program at New York State Psychiatric Institute/Columbia University Medical Center, also known as the Children’s Day Unit (CDU), since 2004. The CDU provides intensive outpatient psychiatric treatment for adolescents aged 13-18.  Academic programming is made available by New York Public School P35, located on the unit.  The program is for adolescents who are experiencing emotional problems that are interfering with their ability to attend school or to function in their daily lives.  CARING at Columbia offers weekly creative arts groups and individual creative art sessions that support the individual treatment goals developed by the staff for each client.  In these groups CARING at Columbia also provides hands-on training for Columbia/Cornell child and adolescent psychiatry residents, and art therapy interns from New York City graduate art therapy programs.  

HMI Afterschool Adolescent Program

CARING at Columbia has formed a collaboration with the Hetrick Martin Institute (HMI) with a common goal of promoting mental health and providing life skills for LGBTQ youth to reach their full potential.  HMI, home of the Harvey Milk High School, provides a safe and supportive environment for at-risk lesbian gay bisexual transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.  CARING at Columbia provides afterschool expressive arts groups for adolescents receiving services at HMI.  These group programs focus on skill building through a combination of creative art modalities such as dramatic exercises, movement, music, and visual art.  Our groups are integrated with HMI’s social services department working directly with on-site social workers.  These groups also function as internships providing job readiness skills for the youth who receive stipends for the 15-week program. 

CARING at Columbia Programs 2020-2021

  • Bloomingdale Family Program Head Start
    125 W 109 Street, New York, NY
  • PS 4, The Duke Ellington Elementary School
    500 West 160th Street, Washington Heights, NY
  • PS 8, The Luis Belliard Elementary School
    465 West 167th Street, Washington Heights, NY
  • PS 124, The Yung Wing Elementary School
    40 Division Street, Chinatown, NY
  • The Hetrick Martin Institute
    Home of the Harvey Milk High School
    2 Astor Place, New York, NY
  • The Children's Day Unit
    The New York State Psychiatric Institute
    1051 Riverside Drive, Washington Heights, NY

In the CARING group, I saw youth grow through the four months of the group and gain insight into themselves. The visual art process supported the youth to simplify or make sense of the current time in their lives and the lessons they were learning. You could see that there was a process of making peace with oneself and one's life journey.

 Art Therapy Intern