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Nisha Sajnani

Associate Professor and Director, Drama Therapy Program

Music and Performing Arts Professions

212 998 5258

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, an international journal for research on how improvisation and performance promote health and wellbeing, 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 also on faculty in the Rehabilitation Sciences Ph.D., Educational Theatre Ed.D and Ph.D. program, and in the Management Communication Program in NYU Stern.  

Dr. Sajnani's primary research areas include the role of improvisation in ethical leadership, drama therapy in the treatment of Parkinson's disease, therapeutic theatre, drama therapy and public health, and sustainable mental health care in humanitarian contexts. She has also published in the areas of culturally responsive pedagogy in the arts therapies, embodied and performance research, depression, and global mental health. She maintains research partnerships with the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma, the Foundation for the Arts and 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 is a research fellow with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (UK). Read an interview with Dr. Nisha Sajnani about her research here.

Dr. Sajnani is the co-editor of three books, including Intercultural Dramatherapy (in progress), and Trauma-Informed Drama Therapy: Transforming Clinics, Classrooms, and Communities. She has been published inFrontiers 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 co-produced the documentary film Fostering Democracy Through Theater and curated Assemblage, an online exhibit on the arts and displacement.

Dr. Sajnani has been recognized by 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), the first Diversity award from the American Society for Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama, and the Gertrud Schattner Award from the North American Drama Therapy Association. 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. Dr. Sajnani received her Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Concordia University in Montreal.

Selected Publications

  • Books
  • Sajnani, N., & Johnson, D.R. (Eds.) (2014). Trauma-informed drama therapy: Transforming clinics, classrooms, and communities. Springfield, 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.
  • Selected Articles
  • 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. doi: 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., Salvatore, J., Sallis, R. (2018). 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. 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. London, UK: 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. UK: 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.

Rehabilitation Sciences

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

Educational Theatre

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


Intro to Drama Therapy

This course is designed to introduce students to the sources, concepts, theory, and practice of drama therapy, as well as to the ethical issues of practice and professional orientation. Part of the course is designed to facilitate a model group process and provide a means of experiencing and evaluating the effectiveness of a drama therapy group. and part of the course will introduce students to theory. Although the main thrust of our class will be on role theory and role methods, we will also look at other approaches popular in the field.
Course #
Fall, Spring