Voices of the Healing Arts: Three Therapists

At NYU Steinhardt, programs in art, music, and drama therapy teach students how to integrate psychotherapy and the arts into their practices and engage the creative power of art for clinical assessment and treatment. Here are the voices of three therapists in our community.

How Does Drama Therapy Heal?

Nisha Sajnani, Director of Steinhardt’s Drama Therapy Program

Drama therapy encourages personal and social change through projective play, dramatic improvisation, role- play, storytelling, fiction, playwriting, and performance. The use of drama and theatre to heal has a very long history dating back to ritualistic performances done by specially authorized persons who were seen as healers in their communities.

When words fail us, art gives us a vital way to express and communicate our inner experience which can make us feel less alone. This is important given that social support is a critical factor in how we manage life’s stressors. Art can also bring visibility to people and concerns that we have neglected as a society. With its ability to engage, connect, and sustain us, art and the arts therapies show great promise in reducing isolation and helping people to recover their creativity, imagine a better future, put ideas into action, and feel alive again.

 On Music and Pain

Joanne Loewy, Music Therapy Adjunct Faculty Member

Music has been used to address pain since the beginning of time. If we look in the Bible, we see an account of Saul being terrified by an evil spirit and David playing the harp to soothe him. If we take this to the modern moment, we know that when people are frustrated and have anxiety and are stuck in traffic, they turn on the radio. These are everyday accounts of how the informed use of music can increase and enhance our feeling of resilience in everyday life.

The reason that music therapy is effective is because the therapist has the ability to interrelate and experience the pain that another person is having. When you are playing music with someone, and you are in that moment of making rhythm together, you are actually in the pain with them and experiencing it as an emotional expression. This gives a music therapist the opportunity to address and alter pain in that moment.

An Alumna Gives Back through Art Therapy

Grace Noh (MA ’17)

My interest in art therapy arose from my own experience of being a newcomer in Toronto, Canada. When I first arrived from Seoul, South Korea, I had a hard time making new friends and often felt isolated as one of two Asian students at school. Adapting to a new environment was challenging, and I didn’t know how to ask for help because I did not know how to talk about my emotions. Art-making was one of the best
therapeutic outlets to release stress and share my difficult feelings.

Last summer, I pioneered an art therapy program for 25 elementary school students at P.S. 001 in Chinatown. Throughout our work making dreamcatchers, students were able to reflect on their anxiety and frustration. We also created a calming box so students could share their stressors and work on their coping skills. The sessions generated a space to reflect on past experiences, identify feelings, and validate emotions.

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Visit our website to learn more about our graduate Drama Therapy, Art Therapy, and Music Therapy programs.