Dr. Nisha Sajnani, RDT-BCT, is the Director of the Program in Drama Therapy and the founder of the Theatre & Health Lab. Dr. Sajnani is the Principal Editor of Drama Therapy Review, and a founding member of the World Alliance of Drama Therapy, the Critical Pedagogy in the Arts Therapies think tank, and the NYU Creative Arts Therapies Consortium. She is a faculty advisor in the Rehabilitation Sciences Ph.D., Educational Theatre Ed.D and Ph.D. program, and co-teaches Improvisation and Leadership in the Management Communication Program in NYU Stern.
Dr. Sajnani's primary research interests relate to the psychological, physiological, and social benefits of pretending, improvisation, and performance in varied contexts and across the lifespan. She has published in the areas of therapeutic theatre, trauma, social justice, culturally responsive pedagogy in the arts therapies, embodied and performance research, and global mental health. She maintains research partnerships with the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma, the Creative Arts Therapies Research Unit (University of Melbourne), KenVak (European Arts Therapies Research Consortium), and the Interdisciplinary Research-Based Theatre collective (University of British Columbia). She was a past research fellow with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (UK), a current faculty fellow with the NYU Aging Incubator, and a senior fellow with the Minnesota Institute for Trauma-Informed Education. Read an interview with Dr. Nisha Sajnani about her research here.
Dr. Sajnani is the co-author of two books, including Intercultural Drama Therapy: Imaginings at the Intersections of Otherness (under contract), and an Introductory Guide to Research Methods for Drama Therapists (under contract). She is the co-editor of Trauma-Informed Drama Therapy: Transforming Clinics, Classrooms, and Communities. She has been published in Frontiers in Psychology, The Arts in Psychotherapy, The Journal of the Applied Arts and Health, Canadian Theatre Review, Europe Now, and Canadian Women's Studies and has been featured in the Boston Globe and on NPR. She is the series creator of Drama Therapy as Performance, a series of films documenting drama therapy practice. She co-produced the documentary film Fostering Democracy Through Theater and curated Assemblage, an online exhibit on the arts and displacement.
Dr. Sajnani was awarded the Gertrud Schattner Award from the North American Drama Therapy Association (NADTA) for distinguished contributions to the field of drama therapy in education, publication, practice, and service and 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 the first Diversity award from the American Society for Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama. Professor Sajnani has served as part of the official Canadian delegation to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. 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 and received her Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Concordia University in Montreal. Dr. Sajnani is the president of the Foundation for the Arts & Trauma.
- Sajnani, N, Mayor, C., Armstrong, C. (under contract, 2023). An introductory guide to research methods for drama therapists. Intellect.
- Sajnani, N., & Johnson, D.R. (Eds.) (2014, 2nd Edition under contract 2022). Trauma-informed drama therapy: Transforming clinics, classrooms, and communities. Charles C. Thomas.
- Dokter, D., & Sajnani, N. (under contract, forthcoming 2022) Intercultural dramatherapy: Imaginings at the intersections of otherness. Routledge.
- 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. Girls Action Foundation.
- Selected Articles
- De Witte, M., Orkibi, H., Zarate, R., Karkou, V., Sajnani, N., Malhotra, B., Ho, R., Kaimal, G., Baker, F., & Koch, S., (forthcoming), From therapeutic factors to mechanisms of change in the creative arts therapies: A scoping review.
- Sajnani, N., Mayor, C., & Tillberg-Webb, H. (2020). Aesthetic presence: The role of the arts in the education of creative arts therapists in the classroom and online. Arts in Psychotherapy, 69, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aip.2020.101668
- Sajnani, N., Mayor, C., Burch, D., Davis, C., Feldman, D., Kelly, J., Landis, H., McAdam, E. (2019). Collaborative discourse analysis on the use of drama therapy to treat trauma in schools. Drama Therapy Review, 5 (1). 27-47.
- Dunphy, K., Baker, F., Dumaresq, E., Carroll-Haskins, K., Eikholt, J., Ercole, M., Kaimal, G., Meyer, K., Sajnani, N., Shamir, O., Wosch, T (2019). Creative arts interventions to address depression in older adults: a systematic review of outcomes, processes and mechanisms. Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02655
- Sajnani, N. & Gopalakrishna, M. (2017). Rasa: Exploring the influence of Indian performance theory and technique in drama therapy, Drama Therapy Review, 3:2, 225-239.
- 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.
- Selected Chapters
Sajnani, N; Mayor, C; Boal, J. (2020) Theatre of the Oppressed. In D.R Johnson and R. Emunah (Eds), Current Approaches in Drama Therapy (3rd edition), Charles C. Thomas.
Johnson, D.R., Sajnani, N., Mayor, C., Davis, C. (2020). The Miss Kendra Program: Addressing toxic stress in the school setting. In D.R Johnson and R. Emunah (Eds), Current Approaches in Drama Therapy (3rd edition), Charles C. Thomas.
- Sajnani, N., Beardall, N., Chapin Stephenson, R., Estrella, K., Zarate, R., Socha, D. Butler, J. (2019). Navigating the transition to online education in the arts therapies. In R. Houghham, S. Pitruzella, and S. Scoble (Eds.) Traditions in transition in the arts therapies. University of Plymouth Press.
- Sajnani, N., Salvatore, J., Sallis, R. (2019). 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, Sense.
- Sajnani, N. Cho, A., Landis, H., Raucher, G., Trytan, N. (2018) 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. Routledge.
- Sajnani, N. & Dokter, D. (2017). 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. University of Plymouth Press.