In this month’s blog, Heidi Landis CANY’s AED interviews our new full-time drama therapists. CANY community meet Lisa Gail Schwartz and Carrie Watt.
Heidi: We are so excited to have you both with us this year.What do you want the Synthesis readers to know about you?
Lisa Gail : It is an honor for me to be welcomed with open arms to the CANY team. I am extremely dedicated and committed to providing the highest standard of quality care to individuals, families, and communities. I strive to contribute positive mental health services aimed at improving clients’ quality of life and fostering therapeutic alliances. I am a hard working, flexible individual, with a taste for adventure.
Carrie: My name is Carrie Watt, and I graduated from the NYU drama therapy master’s program in May. Originally hailing from the Chicago land area, I have been residing in New York for the past six years. I received my BFA in Acting from Rutgers University and had the pleasure of studying abroad at the Globe Theater in London for a year. After working as both an actor and a casting director in New York, I found myself disenchanted with the industry, stuck in a creativity rut and feeling deeply unfulfilled in my work. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered a summer acting teacher of mine who received her master’s in drama therapy at NYU, and suddenly, my path became clear. Drama therapy combines all of the things I longed to find a career, the ability to play and be creative, the chance to work closely with a diverse group of people, and the opportunity to share the magical, healing world of theater with others. I feel privileged to get to do the work I do and thrilled to start my career as a drama therapist at CANY.
Heidi: Why did you want to work at CANY?
Lisa Gail: The CANY model is one that has always intrigued me. I took a few workshops at conferences and was consistently blown away by the knowledge and insight the facilitators shared about working with trauma and complex trauma. Each time I left a workshop, I felt motivated to incorporate the new concepts into my practice. In comparison to my earlier experiences as a drama therapist, the idea of co-leadership seemed like a breath of fresh air.
Carrie: I had the pleasure of working with CANY as an intern last fall and from the first group meeting, it felt like home. There is a real sense of community among the staff at CANY and those relationships provide a strong backbone in the work we do. As an intern, I grew immensely during my time at CANY, thanks to incredible mentors and clients and I look forward to continuing to learn and grow throughout my time at CANY. I could not imagine a better way to begin my career as a drama therapist.
Heidi: What’s one thing that has stood out to you about the CANY model since you started here?
Lisa Gail: The therapists’ ability to work with what is in the room. The experiential nature of CANY’s Trauma-informed drama therapy model provides the co-facilitators the space to work openly while continuing to provide enough containment for the client to explore safely,themes to emerge organically and the CANY model uses strength-based techniques that empower clients and in doing so, evoke change.
Carrie: One thing I find outstanding about the CANY model is the way we honor relationship as the vehicle for healing. We champion the belief that emotional well-being relies on healthy relationships, and we strive to foster connections in our groups and also throughout our organization. Whether it be in working with co-therapists or meeting with site partner before a group, or in our communications with board members, we strive for open, direct communication as a way of strengthening connections. It is wonderful to work with people who are interested in building each other up and supporting one another to be their best.
Heidi: What was the last thing you heard or saw which made you laugh out loud?
Lisa Gail: The moment when I tried to teach a friend how to kayak. As we attempted to get into the kayak, the crashing waves and rocky water challenged our smooth entry. Suddenly, my friend’s paddle started floating away, and as I yelled for him to “retrieve it,” he let go of the kayak which swung back around and hit me, instantly knocked me over into the water. As I swam ashore, he was totally clueless as to what had happened, and I had to laugh and remind him to “Lesson 1 never let go of the paddle. Lesson 2 never let go of the kayak.”
Carrie: After recently finishing my thesis (hooray!) I finally had the chance to catch up on some ‘fun’ reading. I just finished Mindy Kaling’s book, Why Not Me? and loved it. Kaling is so honest and candid, and I struggled to muffle my full-bellied laughs on the subway.
Heidi: Who would play you in the movie adaptation of your life?
Lisa Gail: If I could resurrect Brittany Murphy, I would choose her. She was quirky and had great comedic timing. Personally, I believe she had more talent than she is given credit. She was small in stature but made up for it in personality, a trait similar to myself. She also had a thirst for knowledge and always made those she loved a priority. She loved people and got along with everyone she encountered, all values that are true to my character.
Carrie: Julia Louis- Dreyfus because she is both a brilliant human and actor. She is so specific in her acting choices, and every character she plays is portrayed honestly and expansively. She is an outrageous, bold comedian and I think she would enhance the quirkiness and absurdities of my life-as-a-movie. Also, she is fierce and scrappy, two attributes I admire and aspire to hold within my character.
Heidi: What’s your favorite myth, legend or fairy tale?
Lisa Gail: As a child, one of my favorite fairy tales was Peter Pan, and it remains relevant to me today. Peter Pan reminds us of our youth, our innocence, and brings a sense of joy, free from the burdens of adult responsibilities and regrets. He’s untainted, playful and believes in magic and fairies. As a child, I loved Tinkerbell and her determination to protect those she loved no matter what danger she put herself in. She is sassy, spunky, playful, and has a diva quality that I tried to emulate as a child. Despite my childhood love for Tinkerbell, as an adult, I find myself more drawn to Peter. To me Peter Pan is a symbol; one that will not conform to the conventions of society, refusing to grow up and continuing to hold on to the child-like sense of self. Peter is never afraid to play, he is unique and does things at his own pace. His innocence, happiness, and endless adventures remind me never to let go of my own Neverland.
Carrie: This is a tough one as I love all stories, but the one that sticks out in my mind right now is the Scottish/Irish myth of the Selkie. A Selkie is a shapeshifter who lives in the sea as a seal but once on land sheds their skin to become a human. In the different versions of this myth, one consistent happening occurs, the Selkie arrives on the land, and immediately people fall in love with the majestic creature. Even in human form, there is something magical about the creature and the land people try to keep the Selkie and hide their seal skin. Sometimes the person hiding the seal skin is a lover or a child, but regardless, the Selkie is devastated and lost without their shapeshifting abilities. However, in every version of this tale, the Selkie eventually locates their skin and immediately returns to the sea. The Selkie myth acts as a reminder to me to keep in touch with my seal/soul skin and to keep a balance between my sea and land life.
Heidi: Trauma-Informed work is amazing but can also be draining, what do you do for self-care?
Lisa Gail: My self-care is kickboxing (when I go), spending time with loved ones, traveling when I can, and trying new adventures (i.e., rock climbing, ropes course and a new love for obstacle courses.) I also do enjoy a nice night home on the couch watching “my shows.”
Carrie: At the moment my self-care consists of bubble baths, walks in Prospect Park, podcasts, cooking, and dinner parties. I have dreams of it also including running, but at the moment running continues to be a bit of a struggle.
Heidi: Thank you both so much. We are privileged to have you with us and we hope our community will have a chance to meet you in person soon!