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Nisha Sajnani

Nisha Sajnani

Associate Professor and Director, Drama Therapy Program; Co-Director, Jameel Arts & Health Lab

Music and Performing Arts Professions

212 998 5258

Nisha Sajnani, PhD., RDT-BCT is the Director of the Program in Drama Therapy and Theatre & Health Lab; founder of the Arts & Health @NYU and Chair of the NYU Creative Arts Therapies Consortium. In her capacity as founding co-director of the Jameel Arts & Health Lab, established in collaboration with the WHO, Dr. Sajnani leads a Lancet global series on the health benefits of the arts. An award winning author, educator, and advocate, her body of work explores the unique ways in which aesthetic experience can inspire equity, care, and collective human flourishing across the lifespan. 

Dr. Sajnani is also on faculty with NYU Abu Dhabi where she developed a trans-disciplinary course entitled Can Art Save Lives? which unites current evidence for the health benefits of the arts with practice and policy. 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 and the Executive Education program in NYU Stern. She is also on faculty with the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma where she lectures on the role of the arts with people who are forcibly displaced. 

Nisha Sajnani is the Principal Editor of Drama Therapy Review, and on the editorial boards for the Arts in Psychotherapy and the Journal of the Applied Arts & Health. She is the co-author of three books, including Intercultural Dramatherapy: Imagination and Action at the Intersections of Difference (Routledge, 2023), The Participant as Artist: Care and Co-Production in the Arts & Health (under contract, Cambridge University Press), and an Introductory Guide to Research Methods for Drama Therapists (under contract Intellect). She is the co-editor of Trauma-Informed Drama Therapy: Transforming Clinics, Classrooms, and Communities (2014/2024) and The Psychological and Physiological Benefits of the Arts which was listed amongst the top 20 most-downloaded ebooks of 2022 by Frontiers in Psychology.

Dr. Sajnani has been published in the Lancet, Journal of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 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 her work has been featured in the Boston GlobeNPR, This Day Nigeria, The Art Newspaper, Arab News, magazine of the University Hospitals of Geneva, and the EU Parliament Magazine. Through the Arts + Health @ NYU, Dr. Sajnani collaborated with WHO Europe, Culture Action Europe, University of Oxford, and University College London on the first WHO policy concerning the role of the arts with forcibly displaced persons.  

Nisha is also a curator and producer. She is the series creator of Drama Therapy as Performance, a series of films documenting drama therapy theory and practice, and producer of Behind Blue Sky, which won Best Short Documentary at the Feel the Reel International Film Festival (IFF), Best Black Lives Matter Film at the Amsterdam IFF, and an honorable mention at the Prague IFF.  She co-produced the documentary film Fostering Democracy Through Theater and curated Assemblage, an online exhibit on the arts and displacement. With the WHO, she produced Visions and Voices for a Healthy Planet, the first WHO panel on the role of the arts in addressing climate change for the 2022 World Health Day Campaign and co-emceed the Healing Arts Concert in celebration of the 75th birthday of the WHO at Victoria Hall, Geneva. Prior to the founding of the Jameel Arts & Health Lab, Dr. Sajnani co-produced the launch of Healing Arts New York and symposium in partnership with the Culturunners, the MET Museum, and the World Health Organization Arts & Health initiative.

Dr. Sajnani is a founding member of the World Alliance of Drama Therapy and is affiliated with KenVak (Dutch Arts Therapies Research Consortium), and the Interdisciplinary Research-Based Theatre collective at the University of British Columbia (UBC). She was a research fellow with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (UK) and remains a faculty research fellow with the NYU Aging Incubator. Dr. Sajnani served as part of the official Canadian delegation to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in 2006.

Her scholarship, teaching, and leadership has been recognized with several awards including the NYU Steinhardt Teaching Excellence Award. She was awarded the Gertrud Schattner Award, the highest recognition 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. Dr. Sajnani was also 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. 

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 and a past president of the NADTA. Dr. Sajnani received her Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies uniting graduate training in Drama Therapy and Community Economic Development from the School of Community and Public Affairs from Concordia University in Montreal. Read an interview with Dr. Nisha Sajnani.

Selected Publications

  • Books
  • Sajnani, N, Jones, P. Gopalakrishna, M., Adewale, K., Ho, R. (under contract). Participants as artists: Co-production of care in arts, health and therapy. Cambridge University Press. 
  • Sajnani, N., & Johnson, D.R. (Eds.) (2014/2024). Trauma-informed drama therapy: Transforming clinics, classrooms, and communities. Charles C. Thomas.
  • Dokter, D., & Sajnani, N. (2023) Intercultural dramatherapy: Imagination and action at the intersections of difference. 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
  • Sajnani, N., Williams, B., Low, M.Y., Edwards, J., Dixon, S., Stevens, D.F., Morris, M., Li, S., Rodriguez, I.G., Ikram, S., Bell, W., Perez, C. (2023). Turbulence: Arts-based participatory action research on the experience of creative arts therapists and creatives who identify as Black and people of colour. Drama Therapy Review, 9 (1). 129- 154. 
  • Sajnani, N. Willemsen, M., Butler, J. (2023). Scoping review on the observed benefits of Developmental Transformations. Drama Therapy Review, 9 (2), 273-315.
  • Orkibi, H., Keisari, S., Sajnani, N. L., & de Witte, M. (2023). Effectiveness of drama-based therapies on mental health outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled studies. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts.
  • Feniger-Schaal, R., Orkibi, H., Keisari, S., Sajnani, N., Butler, J. (2022). Shifting to tele-creative arts therapies during the COVID-19 pandemic: An international survey on helpful and challenging factors. The Arts in Psychotherapydoi: 10.1016/j.aip.2022.101898
  • DeWitte, M., Orkibi, H., Zarate, R., Karkou, V., Sajnani, N., Malhotra, B., Ho, Rainbow., Kaimal, G. Baker, F. A., & Koch, S. C. (2021). From therapeutic factors to mechanisms of change in the creative arts therapies: A scoping review. Frontiers in Psychology, 12(2525), 1-27.
  • Keisari, S., Sajnani, N., & Harel, D. (2021). Creative arts therapies to enhance mental health over the course of aging: Research and implications. Innovation in Aging, 5(Supplement_1), 567-567.
  • 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,
  • 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
  • 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. (2023). Rasaboxes in the training of drama therapists. In R. Bowditch, P. M. Cole, & M. Minnick (Eds). Inside the Performance Workshop: A sourcebook for rasaboxes and other exercises. Routledge.
  • Sajnani, N. (2021). Drama therapy in the context of psychiatric care. In U.Volpe (Ed.) Arts therapies in psychiatric rehabilitation. Springer.
  • 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.


Drama Therapy

Translate your theatre skills and love for improvisation into culturally responsible, creative, and effective care in hospitals, shelters, schools, and more.

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Rehabilitation Sciences

Prepare for a career in interdisciplinary rehabilitation research through intensive study across health fields and work with faculty leaders.

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Educational Theatre

Build on your performing skills and learn to create transformative theatre arts programs in schools, cultural institutions, and community settings.

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Introduction to Drama Therapy for Majors

This course introduces students to the field of drama therapy. Students explore the history of drama therapy and its role in healing, identify core and meta processes of drama therapy, analyze applications of drama therapy in practice, and become familiar with drama therapy theory, research, and practice, which is an integral part of the Drama Therapy curriculum. Students complete an annotated bibliography and final project on how drama functions in/as therapy and participate in field training opportunities.
Course #
Music and Performing Arts Professions