People - Drama Therapy

Drama Therapy Faculty: Nisha Sajnani

Nisha Sajnani, Ph.D, RDT

Adjunct Faculty, Drama Therapy

Phone: (617) 349-8689

Dr. Nisha Sajnani is a Registered Drama Therapist (RDT) and Board Certified Trainer (BCT). Dr. Sajnani is a senior advisor for the Expressive Therapies PhD program and Coordinator of the Drama Therapy program at Lesley University. She is also on faculty in the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma. She joined the NYU faculty in 2011 and teaches Arts-Based Research.

Between 2007 and 2012, Dr. Sajnani was the director of the Drama Therapy and Community Health program at the Post Traumatic Stress Center (New Haven) where she spearheaded the development of a trauma-informed school-based intervention program entitled Animating Learning by Integrating and Validating Experience (ALIVE). Nisha has consulted on program design and facilitation with public and private agencies on a broad range of social policy and advocacy issues including internalized, relational, and systemic trauma, youth engagement, social cohesion, gender equity, human rights, violence prevention, and organizational governance.

Through her years of teaching and training, she has cultivated a teaching approach based on collaborative, experiential learning and performance pedagogy. The work of Paulo Freire, David R. Johnson, and Augusto Boal guide her teaching and advising, resulting in a style that is student-centered, dynamic, and rigorous.

Dr. Sajnani’s research interests include the use of improvisation and performance in and as qualitative research, performance pedagogy, multicultural education in and through the arts therapies, audience engagement, and the relationship between feminist psychology and embodied practices in the treatment of trauma. 

Dr. Nisha Sajnani is the past-president of the North American Drama Therapy Association and Editor-in-Chief of the Drama Therapy Review.

 Degrees Held

  • B.A.
  • M.A.
  • Ph.D.


  • 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



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


Sajnani, N., (forthcoming). Performance in and as research. 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. (forthcoming). Relational aesthetics in performance. In S. Pendzik, R. Emunah, and D. R. Johnson (Eds.), Autobiographical, Self-Revelatory, and  Auto-Ethnographic forms of Therapeutic Theatre.

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

Journal Special Issue

The Creative Arts Therapies and Social Justice (Contributing Co-Editor, with Frances Kaplan), The Arts in Psychotherapy, 39 (3), (2012).

Peer-Reviewed Articles

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.,  “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]. Ontario Art Gallery, Toronto, Canada. May 22-25, 2014.

Sajnani, N., “Under Pressure: Performing Social Memory in the Aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing” [Performance & Panel],  Lesley University, April 12, 2014.

Sajnani, N., “Addressing Mental Health Issues of Refugee Students: Care Initiatives and Cultural Perspectives”, Pier-MacMillian Center [Panel], Yale University, April 5th, 2014.

Sajnani, N., Beardall, N., Estrella, K., Chapin-Stephenson, R., Zarate, R., “ The Potential of the Arts in Mental Health”, Conte Brain Science Center [Panel], Harvard University, January 23rd, 2014.

Sajnani, N. “On Art, Beauty, and Healing.” Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma [Symposium]. Orvieto, Italy. 13-20 November. 2013.

Sajnani, N., Goodill, S., Kaiser, D., Murphy, K., Landis, H., Scherlong, N., “Research in the Creative Arts Therapies: Purposes and Possibilities.” Expressive Therapies Summit [Conference]. New York, USA. 7-10, Nov. 2013

Sajnani, N. “A Theater of Hope”, Restorative Justice [Conference] Cambridge, MA, USA. 1-2, Nov. 2013.

Sajnani, N., “Action Methods in the Treatment of Trauma.” Healing the Generations: Child and Family Trauma Conference [Conference]. Groton, CT, USA. Oct. 2-5, 2013.

Pendzik, S., Sajnani, N., Little, E., Mowers, D., “The Ethics of Aesthetics in Drama Therapy and Embodied Research: Multidisciplinary Perspectives.” North American Drama Therapy Association [Conference]. Montreal, Canada. 26-29 Sept. 2013.

Sajnani, N., Parsa, P., Giacona, A., Carter, S., Hix, L., Radish, J., Rozenman, L., Benjamin, P., Ramadani, V., “Embodied Methodologies: An Introduction to Arts Based Research.”  North American Drama Therapy Association [Conference]. Montreal, Canada. 26-29 Sept. 2013.

Raucher, G., Sajnani, N. “Culture Lab: Assessing a Pedagogical Approach to the Basics of Cultural Competence.” North American Drama Therapy Association [Conference]. Montreal, Canada. 26- 29 Sept. 2013.

Sajnani, N. “Embodied Methodologies: Arts Based Research in Drama Therapy.” European Consortium for Arts Therapies Education [Conference]. Paris, France. 11-14, Sept. 2013.

Sajnani, N., Johnson, D.R. “Responding to Conflict Through Drama and Theater.” Conflict as Catalyst: 4th Annual Arts in Healthcare [Conference]. Cambridge, USA. May 31- June 1, 2013.

Sajnani, N. “DvT Bebop Playback.” 8th annual Developmental Transformations [Conference]. New Haven, USA. 19-21, April, 2013.

Sajnani, N., Gareau, P., Lu, L., Linds, W., Rozenberg, M. “Encountering the Living Histories Ensemble: Playback Theater and Complex Trauma.” Playback North America [Conference]. Washington, D.C. 5-8, Oct. 2012. 

Jewers-Dailley, K., Sajnani, N., Johnson, D.R., Pitre, R., Mayor, C., Frydman, J., Rabinowitz, J.“ALIVE: On Location in New Haven Public Schools.” North American Drama Therapy Association [Conference]. New Haven. 2-5 Nov. 2012.

Kleinmann, A., McAdam, L., Trottier, D., Smith, A., Williams, B., Sajnani, N. “From the Playground to the Battlefield: Race as Performance.” North American Drama Therapy Association [Conference]. New Haven. 2-5 Nov. 2012.

Sajnani, N., Trytan, N. “Drama Therapy: Beginnings.” North American Drama Therapy Association [Conference]. New Haven. 2-5 Nov. 2012.

Hodermarska, M., Haen, C., Sajnani, N., McLellan, L., Nasper, E., Dintino, C., “Body of Knowledge: How Does Trauma Perform? A Panel Discussion on the Aesthetics of Trauma.” North American Drama Therapy Association [Conference]. New Haven. 2-5, Nov. 2012.

Sajnani, N., Hodermarska, M., Arnason, C., Fan, S. “Arts Based Research and the Arts Therapies.” Expressive Therapies Summit [Conference]. New York. 8-11, Nov. 2012.

Sajnani, N., Curtis, S., Davis, J., Mayor, C., Wittig, J. “Social Justice and the Creative Arts Therapies.” Expressive Therapies Summit [Conference]. New York. 8-11, Nov. 2012.

Sajnani, N. “ Facilitating Across Difference.”, Girls Action Foundation [Retreat], Quebec. 14-17 Nov. 2012

Sajnani, N. “Facilitating Student Attachment through Trauma-informed Play.” European Congress of Dramatherapy and Playtherapy [Conference]. Athens. 23-25, Nov. 2012.

Research Interests

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