Drama Therapy Faculty: Nisha Sajnani

Nisha Sajnani, PhD, RDT-BCT

Phone: (617) 349-8689
Email: nisha.sajnani@nyu.edu

Dr. Nisha Sajnani, RDT-BCT, is the incoming Director of the Drama Therapy Program at NYU Steinhardt. In this position, Dr. Sajnani will teach courses in the theories drama therapy, therapeutic theatre, embodied and performance research, advanced research methods, and a transdisciplinary seminar in the Rehabilitation Sciences PhD Program.

Associate Professor Sajnani has been with NYU for six years, having joined as an Adjunct Professor of arts-based research in 2011. Her primary research areas of interest include the intersections of feminist theater and health, culturally responsive pedagogy, improvisation and performance research, trauma-informed care, and global mental health. She is a fellow of the Institute of Arts and Health and maintains research partnerships with the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma, the Creative Arts Therapies Research Unit (University Melbourne), the KenVak (European Arts Therapies Research Consortium), and the Institute for Developmental Transformations. 
 
Dr. Sajnani is the co-editor of two books, including Trauma-Informed Drama Therapy: Transforming Clinics, Classrooms, and Communities, and has published numerous chapters and articles in research publications including The Arts in PsychotherapyThe Journal of the Applied Arts and HealthCanadian Theatre Review, Canadian Women's Studies, and Organisations et Territoires (Organizations and Territories). She also co-produced the documentary film Fostering Democracy Through Theater. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Drama Therapy Review, an international journal promoting and disseminating research on the health benefits of improvisation and performance. 
 
Dr. Sajnani has been recognized by the North American Drama Therapy Association (NADTA) for her efforts to promote research and diversity in the field. She was awarded the Corann Okorodudu Global Women's Advocacy Award from the American Psychological Association (Div. 35), and numerous other awards. Professor Sajnani has served as part of the official Canadian delegation to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and has consulted on program design, pedagogy, and facilitation with public and private agencies on a broad range of social policy and advocacy issues including youth engagement, social cohesion, gender equity, human rights, violence prevention, and organizational governance.
 
Before joining NYU, Dr. Sajnani held professorial positions at Lesley University and was Director of Community Health at the Post Traumatic Stress Center in New Haven. She is also a past president of the NADTA. Dr. Sajnani received her PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from Concordia University in Montreal.

 Degrees Held

  • B.A.
  • M.A.
  • Ph.D.

Awards

  • Corann Okorodudu Global Women's Advocacy Award, APA (Div. 35)
  • NADTA Research Award
  • NADTA Raymond Jacobs Memorial Diversity Award
  • Global Education Center Fellowship, Lesley University
  • Center for Research Fellowship, Lesley University
  • Dissertation Award, Drama Therapy Fund
  • Concordia Research Fellowship 2003-2006
  • Concordia Research Fellowship 2001-2002
  • Brian T. Counihan Award for Leadership
  • Canada Council for the Arts: Off the Radar Grant
  • Outstanding Alumni Award, Concordia University College

Publications

Books

Sajnani, N., & Johnson, D.R. (Eds.) (2014). Trauma-informed drama therapy: Transforming clinics, classrooms, and communities. IL: Charles C. Thomas

Sajnani, N., Muhungi, W.M., Yee, J., Mercer, K., Butler, K., Jones, L., Neira, N.L., J, Matining, M. (2012). Decolonizing “social justice” work: Stories to support organizations, facilitators, and youth working against oppression. Montreal, QC: Girls Action Foundation

Chapters

Sajnani, N. Cho, A., Landis, H., Raucher, G., Trytan, N. (forthcoming) Collaborative discourse analysis on the use of drama therapy to treat depression in adults. In A. Zubala & V. Karkou & A. Arts therapies in the treatment of depression. London, UK: Routledge

Sajnani, N. & Dokter, D. (in press). An experiential framework and approach to teaching cultural response/ability. In R. Houghham, S. Pitruzella, and S. Scoble (Eds.) Cultural landscapes in the arts therapies. EU: European Consortium of Creative Arts Therapies Educators.

Sajnani, N., Salvatore, J., Sallis, R. (in press). Three arts based researchers walk into a forum: A conversation on the opportunities and challenges in embodied and performed research. In P. Duffy, C. Hatton and R. Sallis (Eds.) Drama research methods, provocations of practice. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense.

Sajnani, N. (2017). Relational aesthetics in the performance of personal story. In S. Pendzik, R. Emunah, and D. R. Johnson (Eds.), Autobiographical, self-revelatory, and auto-ethnographic forms of therapeutic theatre. London: Palgrave MacMillan.

Sajnani, N. (2016). On being home. In M. Agosin (Ed.) Home: An imagined landscape. Tunbridge, UK: Solis.

Sajnani, N. (2016). Toward a critical aesthetic paradigm in drama therapy. In C. Holmwood and S. Jennings (Eds.). International handbook of dramatherapy. London: Routledge.

Sajnani, N., (2015). Action-in-reflection: An argument for arts-based practice as research in drama therapy. In R.Houghham, S. Pitruzella, and S. Scoble (Eds.) Dimensions of reflection in the arts therapies. EU: European Consortium of Creative Arts Therapies Educators.

Sajnani, N., Linds, W., Wong, A., Ndejuru, L., Lu, L., Gareau, P., and Ward, D. (2014). The Living Histories Ensemble: Sharing authority through play, storytelling, and performance in the aftermath of violence. In D. Conrad and A. Sinner (eds.), Creating together: Participatory, community-based and collaborative arts practices and scholarship across Canada. Waterloo, ON: Wilfred Laurier University.

Fraser, T., Sajnani, N., Louw, A., Austin, S. (2014). Reflecting on systems change through the politics of place. In Claudia Mitchell and Carrie Rentschler (Eds.) Girlhood Studies and the politics of place: New paradigms of research. New York: Berghahn Books.

Johnson, D.R, Sajnani, N. (2014). The role of the drama therapy in trauma treatment. In N. Sajnani and D.R. Johnson, Trauma-informed drama therapy: Transforming clinics, classrooms, and communities (pp. 5-23). IL: Charles C. Thomas.

Sajnani, N., Johnson, D.R. (2014) State of the art of trauma-informed drama therapy. In N. Sajnani and D.R. Johnson, Trauma-informed drama therapy: Transforming clinics, classrooms, and communities (pp. 24- 40). IL: Charles C. Thomas.

Sajnani, N., Jewers-Dailley, K., Brillante, A., Puglisi, J., Johnson, D.R. (2014). Animating learning by integrating and validating experience. In N. Sajnani and D.R. Johnson, Trauma-informed drama therapy: Transforming clinics, classrooms, and communities (pp. 206-242). IL: Charles C. Thomas.

Sajnani, N., Wong, A., Ndejuru, L., & Linds, W. (2013). Turning together: Playback theatre, oral history, and arts-based research in the Montreal life stories project. In E. Little, R. Duong, & S. High (Eds.),  Remembering war, genocide and other human rights violations: New media and the arts. Toronto, ON:University of Toronto.

Sajnani, N. (2011). Playback theatre and social change: Reflections from a Montreal workshop, in Neumark, D., and Chagnon, J., Documenting collaboration: 69 community art projects in Québec and beyond. Montreal: Levier.

Sajnani, N. (2010). Mind the gap: Facilitating transformative witnessing amongst audiences, in Jones, P., Drama as therapy: Clinical work and research into practice. London: Routledge.

Sajnani, N. (2009). Theatre of the oppressed: Drama therapy as cultural dialogue, in Johnson, D.R., & Emunah, R., Current approaches in drama therapy. IL: Charles C. Thomas.

Editorials

Hodermarska, M. & Sajnani, N. (2017). Home and its double: A festschrift in honour of Robert J. Landy. Drama Therapy Review, 3 (1), 3-6.

Sajnani, N. (2016). How acting as-if makes a dramatic difference, Drama Therapy Review, 2 (2), 3-5.

Sajnani, N. (2016). Borderlands: Diversity and coexistence in drama therapy, Drama Therapy Review, 2 (1), 3-6.

Sajnani, N. (2015). On the presence of thoughtful action in drama therapy, Drama Therapy Review, 1 (2), 111-114.

Sajnani, N. & Kaplan, F. (2012). The creative arts therapies and social justice. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 39 (3), 165-167.

Peer-Reviewed Articles

Sajnani, N., Marxen, E., Zarate, B. (2017). Critical perspectives in the arts therapies: Response/ability across a continuum of practice. The Arts in Psychotherapy. 54. 28-37.

Beauregard, M., Stone, R., Trytan, N., Sajnani, N. (2016). Drama therapists attitudes and actions regarding LGBTQ and gender non-conforming (GNC) communities. Drama Therapy Review. 2 (1), 16-24.

Sajnani, N. & Johnson, D.R. (2016). Opening up Playback Theatre: Perspectives from Developmental Transformations and the Theatre of the Oppressed. A Chest of Broken Toys: Journal of Developmental Transformations,1, 94 -126.

Sajnani, N., Tomczyk, P., Bleuer, J., Dokter, D., Carr, M., Bilodeau, S. (2016). Guidelines on cultural response/ability in training, research, practice, supervision, advocacy and organizational change. Drama Therapy Review, 2:1, 139-146.

Hodermarska, M., Landy, R., Dintino, C., Mowers, D., & Sajnani, N. (2015). As performance: Ethical and aesthetic considerations for therapeutic theater. Drama Therapy Review, 1 (2), 173-186.

Johnson, D.R. & Sajnani, N. (2015). Developmental transformations and social justice. A Chest of Broken Toys: Journal of Developmental Transformations, 1, 58-70.

Sajnani, N. (2014). The body politic: The relevance of an intersectional framework for therapeutic performance research in drama therapy, The Arts in Psychotherapy , 40 (3), 382-385.

Sajnani, N. (2012). The Creative arts therapies and social justice: A conversation between the editors, The Arts in Psychotherapy, 39 (3), 165-167.

Sajnani, N. (2012). Response/ability: Imagining a critical race feminist paradigm for the creative arts therapies, The Arts in Psychotherapy, 39 (3), 186-191.

Sajnani, N. (2012). Improvisation and art-based research, Journal of Applied Arts and Health, 3 (1), 79-87.

Sajnani, N. (2012). The implicated witness: Towards a relational aesthetic in dramatherapy. Dramatherapy: The Journal of the British Association of Dramatherapists, 34 (1), 6-21.

Sajnani, N. (2011). Coming into presence: Discovering the ethics and aesthetics of performing oral histories in the Montreal life stories project, Alt. Theatre: Cultural Diversity and the Stage, 9 (1), 40-49.

Sajnani, N. (2011). The bridge: Towards relational aesthetic inquiry in the Montreal life stories project, Canadian Theatre Review, 148 (1), 18-24.

Sajnani,, N., & Mendell, M. (2007). La recherche partenariale : le cas de l’ARUC en economie sociale. Organisations et Territories: Reflexion sur la Gestion, Innovation, et le Développment, 16 (1).

Sajnani, N., & Nadeau, D. (2006). Creating safer spaces for immigrant women of color: Performing the politics of possibility. Canadian Woman Studies Journal/Les cahiers de la femme, 25 (1-2), 45-53.

Sajnani, N. (2004). Strategic narratives: The embodiment of minority discourse in biographical performance, Canadian Theatre Review, 117, 33-37.

Academic Manuscripts

Sajnani, N. (2010) Permeable boundaries: Toward a critical, collaborative performance pedagogy, Doctoral Thesis, Montreal: Concordia University.

Recent Presentations

Sajnani, N. “Deep Diversity: Using Action Methods to Examine Implicit Bias” [Featured Workshop], American Society for Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama. Clearwater, FL: May 4-7, 2017.

Sajnani, N. “The Arts and Science of Reflective Practice.” [Lecture], Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma Master Class, Orvieto, Italy, March 27-31, 2017.

Sajnani, N. “Living Inquiry: Embodied Improvisation as an Approach to Ethnodramatic Research.” Forum on Ethnodrama: The Aesthetics of Research and Playmaking. New York, NYU, April 21- 23, 2017.

Sajnani, N. “Art, Beauty and Healing in the Context of Displacement.” [Lecture], Harvard Program inRefugee Trauma, Orvieto, Italy, Nov. 7-19, 2016.

Sajnani, N. “Critical Pedagogy.” Girls Action Foundation National Youth Forum [Conference], Montreal, Quebec, Nov 3-5, 2016.

Sajnani, N., & Gopalakrishna, M. “Rasa Theory and Method: Indian Performance Theory as a basis for Drama Therapy,” North American Drama Therapy Association Conference. Seattle, WA. Oct. 27-30, 2016.

Beauregard, M, Stone, R., Trytan, N., & Sajnani, N. “From Survey to Play: Performing Research Findings from a Survey about Gender and Sexuality,” North American Drama Therapy Association Conference. Seattle, WA. Oct. 27-30, 2016.

Sajnani, N. “The Role of the Arts in Mental Health” [Lecture] United Nations Committee on Mental Health, United Nations, NY, October 6, 2016.

Sajnani, N. & Palacio, O. “Mapping Home Amidst a Global Crisis of Place,” [Panel], Lesley University, September 30, 2016.

Sajnani, N. “Trauma-informed Care in the arts therapies,” Clinical Instructors Professional Development Day, Lesley University, September 23, 2016.

Sajnani, N. “Arts, Identity, and Healing in the Context of the Refugee Crisis” [Invited Speaker] Postgraduate Medical Institute, Edgehill University, June 1st, 2016.

Sajnani, N. “Performing Emergency: In the World and of the World” [Keynote] 2nd European Developmental Transformations Conference, Bristol, UK. May 26-29, 2016.

Sajnani, N. “The Arts and Science of Reflective Practice.” [Lecture], Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma Master Class, Orvieto, Italy, April 10-16, 2016.

Sajnani, N. “Cultural Humility in Action” [Featured Workshop] American Society for Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama. Pheonix, AZ: March 30-April 2, 2016.

Sajnani, N. “Art, Beauty and Healing.” [Lecture], Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma, Orvieto, Italy Nov. 10-20, 2015.

Sajnani, N. “Critical Pedagogy.” Girls Action Foundation National Youth Forum [Conference], Montreal, Quebec, Oct. 20-25, 2015.

Sajnani, N., Hodermarska, M., Bleuer, J., & Mayor, C. “Performing the Other: Teaching cultural competency in drama therapy.” North American Drama Therapy Association Conference. White Plains, NY. Oct. 15-19, 2015.

Sajnani, N., Nguyen, T., & Johnson, D. “Homo Elitus: A performance about privilege and complicity.” North American Drama Therapy Association Conference. White Plains, NY. Oct. 15-19, 2015.

Sajnani, N. Bleuer, J., Tomczyc, P., Doctor, D. “Body of knowledge: Cultural Response/ability Guidelines”. North American Drama Therapy Association Conference. White Plains, NY. Oct. 15-19, 2015.

Sajnani, N. & Doktor, D. “Teaching cultural competency in the arts therapies”. European Consortium for Arts Therapies Education. Palermo, Sicily. September 16-19, 2015.

Sajnani, N. “Living Enquiry: Improvisation as Research in Drama Therapy.” 9th annual Developmental Transformations [Conference]. New Haven, USA. 17-19, April, 2015.

Sajnani, N., & Landis, H. “Trauma-Informed Drama Therapy and Psychodrama.” Association for Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama, [Conference], Philadelphia, PA, April 9-12, 2015.

Sajnani, N., Beardall, N., Zarate, R., Chapin-Stephenson, R., Pinna-Perez, A. “Arts and Mental Health: The Expressive Therapies [Panel Chair], Conte Brain Science Center, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, Jan. 23, 2015.

Sajnani, N. “Art, Beauty and Healing.” [Lecture], Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma Harvard University, Orvieto, Rome, Nov. 11-21, 2014.

Sajnani, N. “Trauma-Informed Drama Therapy.” [Panel Chair], North American Drama Therapy Association, Yosemite, CA, Nov. 1, 2014.

Sajnani, N. “Body of Knowledge” [Long table Performance Chair] North American Drama Therapy Association, Yosemite, CA, Nov. 1, 2014.

Sajnani, N. “Developing Intercultural Best Practice Guidelines for Drama Therapy.” North American Drama Therapy Association [Conference], Yosemite, CA, Nov. 1, 2014.

Sajnani, N. “Performing Love and Loss in the Aftermath of Trauma.” [Keynote Presentation], Series on Trauma-Informed Drama Therapy, Creative Alternatives of New York, NY, Oct. 24, 2014.

Sajnani, N. “Body Politics: Embodying Intersectionality.” [workshop], Conversations of Color, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University, Oct. 23, 2014.

Sajnani, N. “Performing Memory in the Aftermath of Violence.” [Keynote Presentation], Visual and Performing Arts and Human Rights, Wellesley University, Wellesley, MA, Oct. 21, 2014.

Sajnani, N. “Critical Pedagogy.” Girls Action Foundation National Youth Forum [Conference], Montreal, Quebec, Oct. 15-19, 2014.

Sajnani, N., “Improvising Coexistence: Teaching Cultural Competency in and through Drama Therapy.” Institut für Theatertherapie [Keynote Presentation]. Remscheid, Germany. June 5- 8. 2014.

Sajnani, N., Wong, A., Linds, W., Ndejuru, L., Gareau, P., Lu, L., “The Living Histories Ensemble: Performing Oral Histories on the Edge.” Berkshire Conference of Women Historians [Artist in Residence]. Toronto, ON, Canada. May 22-25, 2014.

Sajnani, N., Beardall, N., Zarate, R., Chapin-Stephenson, R., Estrella, K. “Arts and Mental Health: The Expressive Therapies [Panel Chair], Conte Center for Brain Science, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, Jan. 23, 2014.

Research Interests

  • Practice research
  • Performance pedagogy
  • Feminist and multicultural education in and through the arts therapies
  • Trauma studies
  • Oral history and performance
  • Improvisation